Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Designed By Suzanne (1968)

Designed By Suzanne
Kathleen Robinson, il. Evaline Ness (jacket)
1968, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Co., Inc.

Personality clothes. Would you like to have some especially designed for YOU? Expertly made to fit YOU? Satisfaction guaranteed.

St. Louis high school senior Suzanne Bishop dreams of attending fashion school in New York City and, in a moment of boldness, decides to place the above ad, hoping to start her chosen career and earn money toward school at the same time. She's disappointed when the local matrons hire her only to design clothes for their children, but finds she has a knack for handling kids. As she struggles to cope with the extra work and her sister's wedding plans, her comfortable long-time relationship with Barry Castleton suffers, and she's attracted to the wealthy New Yorker who's acting as best man to her maid of honor.

Well-written and engrossing. Suzanne's an appealing heroine, and although her decisions at the book's end seem surprising, it's consistent with her character. Other characters are less well-defined; Barry feels like a generic steady boyfriend, rich boy Ralph seems to exist mostly as a plot device, rival Desiree is a series of flirtatious tics, and only Suzanne's elder sister, Louise comes across as a real person.

There are several unusual features. First, although the action apparently begins only halfway through Suzanne's final year of high school, and ends before the fall, there are no actual school scenes. Friends, outings, etc., yes, but no mention made of Suzanne attending classes. Barry is apparently a graduate working at an architectural firm, and mention is made of Suzanne being rather mature and sophisticated for her age due to her chic grandmother, but it seems strange. As does the chic grandmother's current whereabouts - it's never made clear if she's deceased or simply living in another state.

Vanished Worlds
The Bishop home and furnishings are described by some characters, including Suzanne sometimes, as old-fashioned and antique - and undesirable.

Other Books
When Debbie Dared
When Sara Smiled
Manon's Daughter: The Love Story Of An Outcast In Early St. Louis

About the Illustrator
(1911-1986) Ness won a Caldecott Medal in 1967 for Sam, Bangs And Moonshine. She was married to Elliot Ness, the Treasury agent made famous as the head of Chicago's 'Untouchables,' from 1938-1946.

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