I spent Memorial Day weekend with friends and family, trying to sneak as much time as possible with this book! It’s a piece of Historical Fiction that I wouldn’t have bothered to pick up of I hadn’t heard someone talk about it. Now I’m returning the favor, hoping someone else picks it up and enjoys it as much as I did!
Seeing this book the first time, I looked right over it. I’m not a big fan of the royal family. I mean, I don’t have anything against them, I just don’t really care. I’ve never been one to read the gossip about what’s going on in the palace or to tune in to watch their weddings. So, a book about Queen Elizabeth’s wedding dress? Hmph. And I do love Historical Fiction, but I get tired of reading about WWII (it gets depressing reading about the awful things people have done to each other).
Then, I heard someone talking about The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding by Jennifer Robson. Their excitement about this book got me excited. I couldn’t wait to pick it up, I didn’t want to put it down and I was literally sad when I finished it. It turns out this book isn’t about the Royal Family at all. It’s about the lives of the people of London, in the rough years after WWII. The war is over but life is still really tough. The economy is bad and necessities are still rationed. People are trying to heal from the devastation of war and rebuild their lives.
So begins the story of Ann and Miriam, two women who meet because they are employed at Hartnell’s, the designer who handled the majority of the royal dresses/gowns. The two woman became close friends and roommates and for months they spend their days embroidering Princess Elizabeth’s wedding dress. The books narration alternates between Ann and Mariam in 1947 and Heather in 2016 (she is Ann’s granddaughter).
The Gown is very strong on character (I loved them all) with a nice bit of mystery and plot to keep you wanting to learn more. While it reads like a light rom-com, there are some serious plot lines that were pretty disturbing. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this glimpse into a world I’m not overly familiar with, getting to know these women. Even though they are fictional characters, the research Robson did for this book leaves no doubt they are representative of real life.
Still on the fence? Imagine the talent and determination it takes to do all this detail work by hand
Make yourself a cup of tea, grab a scone or a biscuit (cookie) and get lost in London, 1947.