When I first spotted The Gown by Jennifer Robson at our local Barnes and Noble, I knew I had to read it. I assumed it was about the royal wedding and would center around the royal family. Instead, the focus is on two women, Ann and Miriam, who are embroiderers in the Normal Hartnell fashion house, as well as Ann’s granddaughter, Heather, who, years later, discovers that these two worked on Queen Elizabeth’s wedding gown.
This is one of those books where the story switches between past (1947) and present (2016). I honestly didn’t think Heather or the switch between times was necessary. There wasn’t much of a mystery to unravel, and I felt that the fact that Heather’s mother knew nothing about her own mother, Ann’s, history a bit too convenient and far-fetched. I would’ve preferred to read more about Ann and Miriam than to read of the granddaughter’s thoughts and discoveries, but maybe there wasn’t enough material to fill a novel otherwise.
Aside from this, the two main characters had enough depth and vibrance to their personalities to keep me invested in their story. The description of their work at Hartnell’s fascinated me, and provided them with a way to slip into a world of luxury and beauty, in sharp contrast to their stark, post-war, rationed existence. Within these pages you will read of a blossoming love story and a brutal betrayal, of healing, friendship, and the resilience of women in the face of hardship.
I recommend this book to readers who enjoy wartime or post-war fiction, anything to do with England, art, or fashion.