The Most Amazing Department Store

We rated this book:


The Most Amazing Department Store by Sharon Neiss-Arbess was a delightful, lighthearted read. Told from the perspective of Lilly, an intelligent mother of three, and Vivian, a fashionista and sassy cosmetician, the story follows the journey of these two women meeting and forming a beautiful, timeless friendship.
A historical fiction, the story begins in 1934 from the perspective of Vivian. Never able to focus in school, her mind is always on what she loves best – fashion. For as long as she can remember, Vivian has loved constructing outfits, something her entire family uses to their advantage. Always asked for advice on accessories, jewelry, and all things clothing, Vivian lives to help her loved ones look fabulous. Lilly, however, cannot be more different than Vivian. Incredibly book-smart and extremely gifted in school, she actually looks forward to tests and assignments. Proudly showing off her A+s to her parents, she finds joy and validation in all things regarding her brilliance.

Fast-forwarding to the 1950s, both women are grown and living very different lifestyles. Vivian has pursued her fashion dreams by working at Sunderland’s, the most coveted department store in Downtown Montreal. Her version of paradise, Vivian has had enormous success in pursuing this passion. Lilly however, has not been so lucky. Divorced with three children, she never pursued her dream of sitting in a real university classroom. Rather, she is now alone with quite a few mouths to feed, in need of work. In a post-WWII world, Lilly is struggling to find her way – until she meets Vivian. The two immediately hit it off, and before long, both of their lives are changed forever. Together, they fight department store antisemitism, sexist bosses and boardroom officials, and much more, while still always taking time for their weekly brunch at Beauty’s restaurant.

A wonderful story of friendship, love, ambitions, and hardship, I really enjoyed reading this novel. I loved the way Neiss-Arbess captured the department store mania of the 50s, something completely different from our current 2023 way of life. Presented as a welcome escape from their war-ridden reality, I loved that both Vivian and Lilly were in this unique setting, helping women find joy despite adversities. Neiss-Arbess also did an excellent job with the imagery in this novel. I felt like I was immersed in Sunderland’s with the pair, looking at Revlon lipsticks in shades of reds, alongside Chanel perfume collections and gleaming cabinets. Overall, I think she did a fantastic job setting the scene to have the two meet and form an unbreakable bond.

To conclude, I think Neiss-Arbess really hit a bullseye with this novel! I would recommend this book to women aged 16+ who enjoy historical fiction and books about friendship.

Reviewed By:

Author Sharon Neiss-Arbess
Star Count 5/5
Format Trade
Page Count 300 pages
Publisher RE:BOOKS
Publish Date 05-Dec-2023
ISBN 9781738945245 Buy this Book
Issue November 2023
Category Historical Fiction