The Gown by Jennifer Robson
Jennifer Robson’s new book The Gown is the perfect book to throw in your carry on for a week on the beach this winter!
There is nothing like the hype over a royal wedding – my daughter’s generation watched Will and Kate, and more recently Harry and Meghan. I got up before dawn many years ago to watch the wedding of Charles and Diana, and my mother remembers the wedding of the woman who was to become Queen Elizabeth II marry Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten in 1947. When I mentioned to my mother that I was reading a book about the women who worked on Elizabeth’s wedding gown, she (who has little memory of past and present) said, “oh, all those little seed pearls”. A gown to remember indeed.
This novel is interesting, well written and not too demanding of intelligence or attention – just a good light read. We are reminded that this royal wedding took place just after the Second World War and things were still difficult in England. The war was long, many people suffered had loss and everyone is still finding rationing arduous.
Two of the seamstresses at Norman Hartwell’s dressmaking establishment are Ann Hughes and Miriam Dassin. Ann is British, a young woman supporting herself as an embroiderer and Miriam is French, a survivor of the war, also an expert embroiderer who has found escape and employment in England. These two become friends and work together on the wedding gown that will be worn by the future Queen. Norman Hartwell had been designing and making clothes for the women of the royal family for many years, and everyone at the firm is thrilled that they have been selected to make the wedding gown, and all are sworn to secrecy.
In tandem with the story that takes place in the past, is a present day story involving a young woman, Heather Mackenzie, in Canada who is the granddaughter of Ann Hughes. After her grandmother’s death, a package is found containing embroidery pieces with the words “For Heather” on the box. There are also a few old photographs of Ann as a young woman.
Ann’s daughter, Heather’s mother, realizes she knows little of the past. She knew only that her mother came to Canada from England, and that she was a widow. Ann was a woman who never spoke of the past, a past that Heather now feels compelled to discover.
As you join Heather in her search, you will find yourself in another time, with young women who are making their own way, who suffered loss during a time of war and are finding ways of carrying on .The Gown is a story set in the world of our young mothers and grandmothers, one that sees dramatic change.