The Gown (Book Review)

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.

 

My Book Stack

 

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I could talk about the books I’m reading every day, and I usually sneak it into the conversation somehow.  Happy November 1st! For those of you participating in NaNoWriMo for the first time ever, you may be wondering, “What on earth have I gotten myself into?” or perhaps you’re like me and scared but excited. Remember Seth Godin‘s question on the front of Poke the Box: “When was the last time you did something for the first time?” Well, when was it? This is a great opportunity. Let’s do this!

If you’re not participating in NaNoWriMo, you’re probably more sane than I, but hopefully you still love books and the reading life. I attempt to keep my Goodreads profile up-to-date, but I add, discard and finish books so frequently that it sometimes lags behind. Right now, it’s fairly current, give or take a few.

Here is the list of books I’ve been reading for a few days, months or a year:

168 Hours by Laura Vanderkam. I mentioned this in Monday’s post. We do have time–all the time we need to work, sleep, spend time with loved ones, do chores and errands, exercise and do the things we dream of doing.

Untangled by Lisa Damour. I heard of this on ModernMrsDarcy. If you have a teen daughter, if you’re confused or hurt by her behavior, you should read this. Lisa explains why and will take you through the seven stages of adolescence.

11/22/63 by Stephen King. A high school English teacher is asked to go back to 1958 and save JFK and a few other people as well. As are all King’s books, this one is gigantic, but I believe it’s going to be worth it.

Daughter of Smoke & Bone  by Laini Taylor is YA fantasy, about a blue-haired girl with super-powers and a dark past, so I’ve strayed from my usual picks. It’s interesting so far, I just need to discipline myself to dig in deeper.


The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae. Recommended on Modern Mrs Darcy, I picked it up and two minutes in I was laughing.

The Swan Thieves: A Novel by Elizabeth Kostova is very well written, but the story is slow and sad. Lots of unhappy domestic emotions. I’m hoping it ends up in a different place.

Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir by Natalie Goldberg is a book for writers, filled with prompts. I need to faithfully do two or three a day, but I hate rushing through her books. I want them to last forever. Her voice and realness combined with a generous dose of humor comfort me and help me when I’m struggling to push through self-doubt or procrastination.

Beauty: The Invisible Embrace by John O’Donahue. I’ve been savoring this book for a year. With two chapters to go, I’m telling myself it’s time to finish it. I can re-read it later.

What are you reading lately?

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