When this title by Jennifer Robson was reviewed by a member of our Book Club I knew I had to read it. You don’t have to be a fan of the royal family to enjoy this historical novel about Queen Elizabeth’s wedding gown and the fascinating women who made it.
Ann Hughes and Miriam Dassin are embroiderers working at the famous Mayfair owned by Norman Hartnell who is renowned for designing clothing for the Queen and princesses.
Told from three perspectives – one current and two post WWII – I was mesmerised as I read about how the dressmakers worked so hard to create the Queen’s famous wedding dress. I was compelled at the same time to search for images of the finished gown so that I could see for myself the detailed embroidery described in the novel. The gown with its elaborate embroidery was decorated with sequins, crystals and 10,000 seed pearls. It was made in under three months and took 350 women working in secrecy to complete.
The novel is rich in details about the society and culture of England post WW11 and the country’s efforts to regain its footing in a tough new economic and political era. The people are just getting by and many things such as sugar, butter, bacon, meat, and tea are being rationed. Hardships and the grief of loss abound, but the announcement of the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth to Philip Mountbatten helps to lift the country from its despair.
While the main characters in the book do not exist in real life, real characters and some known facts about the making of the wedding gown are interwoven with fictional ones and the author’s imagination to create a storyline that makes for a captivating read. I highly recommend reading the author’s note at the end as it provides a good context into her writing process.
Sylvia Cooling – Programs and Events Coordinator