Picks and Pans Review: The Clothes on Their Backs

updated 12/22/2008 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/22/2008 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Linda Grant

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Vivien Kovacs knows little about her parents' past. When her dad's estranged brother shows up at the family's pokey London flat in a flashy suit, she wonders how he could possibly be related to her. Years later, in the '70s, Vivien and her uncle, a slumlord just out of prison, meet again. Their unlikely relationship is at the heart of this thoughtful, elegant novel. And, yes, clothes play a role: A vest, a jacket, a slinky dress help shape their wearers' identities, sometimes without their knowing it.

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