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.

 

Bookaholic Problems (What I’m Reading Now)

Two days ago, as I was salivating over the prospect of purchasing another few books, I stopped my searching and took a breath, grabbed myself by the shoulders–metaphorically speaking–and gave myself a shake.

“You have a lot of books on your library shelves and on your nightstand that have yet to be read. You don’t need one more book, nor do you deserve one until you’ve read at least ten.”

Ugh, I pouted. I didn’t want to hear it. But it was true; I did have plenty of reading material on hand to keep me busy for quite a while.

Soooo, I decided to go on a book buying diet of sorts. I will allow myself one book purchase for every ten books I read. It will make me read more because I can never stop wondering what that book will be like.

Here is the list of books I’m either reading or will be starting very soon…

On Writing by Stephen King. Ok, I am not really a King fan. Sorry to disappoint all of you who are. He has the ability to tell great stories, but after reading 11/22/63 and being downright furious with the ending, not to mention the excess of words (it went on forever), I probably won’t be reading his fiction any time soon. But several people recommended On Writing, and it’s not an overlong book, so I’m reading it.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. I haven’t read this, but Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs Darcy has recommended it and it’s rare that I don’t value her opinion. It sounds like a bit of sci-fi (post-apocalyptic) with Shakespeare thrown in.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott is another book about writing that I’ve been wanting to read for a while. I picked up a copy last summer at a local used bookstore and it’s been sitting inside my nightstand cubby just waiting to be read. Yesterday, I read the introduction, which made me laugh more than once and be completely intrigued about Anne’s life, this book, and other books she’s written. How have I not read her before this?

Sin: Selected Poems of Forugh Farrokhzad is a collection of poetry from the Iranian poet I read about in Song of a Captive Bird: A Novel, which I reviewed here. Her story so interested me that I wanted to understand her a little more through her actual writings.

Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon will be a short, motivating kick in the pants, if it’s anything like his book Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative. I’m looking forward to this one.

Crave Radiance: New and Selected Poems 1990-2010 by Elizabeth Alexander was a Christmas present I received a couple of years ago. If I remember her story correctly, she became a poet as a means to work through her grief after her husband’s disappearance and presumed death while out sailing.

Autumn: A Novel (Seasonal Quartet) by Ali Smith is another book I’ve heard Anne Bogel talk about on her podcast What Should I Read Next (highly reccomended). I have the Audible version, so I’ll be listening while sewing or painting, driving, or making dinner.

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf is a classic I might’ve read as a teen, but I honestly can’t remember. I purchased the Audible version with Juliet Stevenson narrating.

The House of the Spirits: A Novel by Isabelle Allende was another book I picked up last year at a local used bookstore. I heard her interviewed on Just the Right Book with Roxanne Coady (another highly recommended podcast) and fell in love with her as she shared about her life and writing.

The Mussorgsky Riddle by Daron Kennedy is a book that Alan purchased for me last year when he was at a book convention. It’s different from the categories I usually reach for, which is a good thing. Listening to Pictures at an Exhibition is very helpful to understand some of the references. Anyway, I’m about halfway through and it’s getting to the point where I want to know what happens next. There’s a kid with autism, a psychic who can enter his imaginary world, a missing, possibly murdered teen girl, a witch and other fantasy characters.

Hey, I would love to hear about what you’ve been reading lately. Please share in the comments. Thanks!