Why we love it: Precious Things tells the compelling story of a modern woman while weaving the fascinating and mysterious stories of many women from the past two centuries. What links each of them is a beautiful, precious thing – a bejeweled and mysterious coronet.
Aimee is living in a cloistered environment in a late 19th Century French chateau. With her mother dead in mysterious circumstances, and her aristocrat father, cold and strict, she has only a handsome valet and lowly servant for company. Alone, she waits for her coming marriage but barely knows her future husband – it’s a marriage of convenience for her suitor is rich and her father’s estate impoverished. Alone with her needlework, she painstakingly crafts herself an exquisite collar to wear on her wedding dress and in her despair she embroiders a hidden message in the folds of the piece.
Cut to present day London where collector and vintage lover Maggie has a glamorous job she loves at a high end auction house. She is struggling with a young toddler and the arrival of her husband’s teenage daughter from a previous relationship. As she finds herself drawn to a wealthy and handsome man, into her possession comes an exquisite piece – a collar or coronet – that she treasures. But the piece holds hidden secrets and Maggie must unveil its mysterious past.
As Maggie turns detective to uncover the provenance of the mystery item, the action moves through to the past to an intriguing thread of characters, all connected to this alluring piece. There’s the tragic circus acrobat in Paris, the dancer sisters in 1920s Shanghia and Christian, a successful British artist living in 1950s Italy where he treats his muse Bella with disdain and cruelty.
Ultimately Maggie unpicks the threads and the story is skillfully woven until the present day. Maggie, a thoroughly modern woman who appreciates the value of vintage items and the rich past they can hold, ultimately learns what’s really important in her life. Many will relate to her struggles balancing parenthood and career and her near seduction by ‘precious things’.
Precious Things is a wonderful and unusual story. Both its modern story and each of its historical stories are fascinating and compelling. They each offer insight into the complexities of modern life as well as universal issues for women. The novel explores themes of marriage, motherhood, femininity and the idea of valuing what’s really important versus the allure of the shiny and seductive.
This is an impressive debut from Kelly Doust, previously the writer of fashion and craft titles such as The Crafty Minx, The Crafty Kid, Minxy Vintage and The Crafty Minx at Home, as well as the fashion memoir A Life in Frocks. Doust has been scouring flea markets and charity stores for vintage fashion, fabric and homewares from her early teens. Fittingly then, she’s a Brand Ambassador for Vinnies. Doust has written for Vogue, Australian Women’s Weekly and Sunday Life and lives in Sydney with her husband and daughter.