Saturday, October 22, 2016

In the Name of Gucci

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Rating: 4 Stars

Let's just take a moment and admire that cover, shall we? If you have read my reviews regularly, or even some of my Top Ten Tuesday posts, you know covers are VERY important and I absolutely judge a book by them. It doesn't mean I won't read books with terrible covers, but I will point out said terrible cover in my review. This one, however, is not terrible, it is beautiful and simple and a sweet photo of a girl and her father.

However, that girl happens to be Patricia Gucci, and her father happens to be Aldo Gucci, so it is definitely no ordinary family photo as they laugh together at a Gucci event in Hong Kong. Even though they are no ordinary family, it is easy to see their happiness being there together, sharing in laughter.

The back cover is equally as beautiful and I snapped a photo (originally provided courtesy of the author) of it to share so we all can bask in its beauty:




This one was tough for me to rate at first and I wanted to do a proper review, which is why it has been a couple months before I could get this one done. The story within these pages is quite a roller coaster ride and I needed some time to think about it and decide how I felt about the narrative. But truly, the inside dust jacket pretty much sums it up perfectly (and almost makes my review moot, but yes I am still going to write one anyway): "The gripping family drama - and never-before-told love story - surrounding the rise and fall of the late Aldo Gucci, the man responsible for making the legendary fashion label the powerhouse it is today, as told by his daughter."

While I myself am not able to afford the likes of Gucci, I can still appreciate the quality of the product. Basically, that's a nice way of saying that I am very nearly obsessed with the history of fashion, how these great fashion houses got their start, and basically anything related to two of my favorites - Gucci and Louis Vuitton. I appreciated the historical aspect of this book a lot, seeing how the author's father got his start and how the company that began as one small shop eventually grew into a world-wide powerhouse.

But that is not all the story contains. At its heart, it is not about the store or the brand, but about the love story of the author's parents, Aldo and Bruna Gucci. I have to admit I was skeptical at first, reading of their early encounters when the author's mother first began working at the store. It felt at first like he was far more interested in her than she was in him. Perhaps she was scared, for a multitude of reasons - the main one being that he was married and had children already with someone else. It felt at first almost like he was obsessed with her, the way those encounters were described, how he would glance at her or touch her cheek. It seemed to make her uncomfortable, but as I read more and more of their story, it seemed to me that they truly loved one another, and perhaps her unease rested solely on the fact that not only was he married with children, but when they had their own child (the author, Patricia), it was still illegal in Italy to have a child born out of wedlock. For much of the book, Aldo's feelings seem to be more prominent and discussed more at length. Perhaps this is because he was this kind of larger-than-life figure and overshadowed the rest? This quote stuck out for me in particular: "He had fallen hard for a woman young enough to be his daughter. It was an infatuation that ran bone deep and one that he seemed unable to fight even though he was aware of what he was risking - for him and for her" (page 54).

As the story weaves on, we get to see the author's childhood and I felt such sadness for her at many times as she described growing up as this secret child. Her mom couldn't really be a parent to her and was so non-functional whenever Aldo was away, and then for Patricia to lose her nanny, Maureen, when she was old enough to not physically need a nanny anymore. Emotionally though, she certainly still needed the love and care that Maureen had provided for her. It was quite heartbreaking. Her father's visits were not long, a weekend at most, usually once a month or so, and that part also made me sad for her. From the moment he arrived home, Bruna occupied his attention with her 'venting' as it was referred to in the book and it seems that even though they both always looked forward to his visits, the author didn't get to see him nearly as much as she wanted or needed. When Aldo became ill and was on the verge of passing away, I was in tears. It was a combination of everything he had gone through in his later years, when he should have been enjoying life with his family, and the hard fact that everyone eventually has to say goodbye to the people they love, that hit me so hard. But the author handles these last stories of her father quite elegantly, and it is as beautiful in her writing as it is devastating for her loss.

The one thing I could not relate to at all, was the absolute deviousness of both Aldo's sons from his first marriage, and his nephew to boot. I just can't imagine ever doing something so cold and heartless to anyone in general, much less a family member who had provided me with a life beyond anything a regular person would ever experience. His sons were horrible, and his nephew needed a good slap upside the head and a kick in the ass, just for good measure.

Overall, I enjoyed the book - but as I mentioned above, it is not without drama or sadness at times. I am sometimes cautious at first when family members pen memoirs of their own loved-ones, because often the story is told through rose-colored glasses with an obvious slant. Not so with this work, as the author seamlessly combines the two parallel stories - her family and the family business. I think Patricia Gucci has written a wonderful memoir that her father would be quite proud of her for.

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