Sunday 8 September 2019

The Gown

Finished August 24
The Gown by Jennifer Robson

I'd bought this a while back and been meaning to read it for ages. I took it on my vacation as I knew I would likely pass it on to one of my stitching friends I was going to be spending time with. It was even better than I hoped.
The main characters in the novel are two young women working at the Norman Hartwell workshop. Ann Hughes answered an advertisement in 1939 when she was fourteen and had no stitching experience at all. In fact, that was one of the reasons that she was hired, as she had no bad habits to unlearn. Now, in her twenties, she is one of the senior embroiderers. During her employment, her parents have passed away, and her brother was killed in the war. As the book opens, she is living with her brother's widow in the council house she grew up in. Money is tight and she is faced with new challenges as her sister-in-law considers joining her brothers who have emigrated to Canada.
Miriam Dessin is a young French woman who has lost her family in the war, and is now looking for a fresh start in another country. She had worked at the Christian Dior workshop in Paris, and is highly skilled, but it is only as she takes a huge risk that she is able to find a job using her skills in England.
Shortly after Miriam starts as the workshop, Hartwell is vying for the job of creating the wedding dress for Princess Elizabeth. This event will be an uplifting one for the nation after the privations and losses of the recent war, and they want it to be a huge success. Ann, with the assistance of Miriam are given the job of making Hartwell's designs come to life. They are under immense pressure, not only for the work itself, but for secrecy about the design.
The stories of these skilled young women was wonderful, and the author credits an encounter with the journalist Heather Mackenzie, who connected her with one of the real-life embroiderers of the wedding gown, Betty Foster, for being able to supply the details that made the story what it is.
This is a fantastic read, for the history, but also for anyone who does handwork.

No comments:

Post a Comment