Another snow day today…perfect for curling up with a good book. Historical fiction has always been one of my favorite genres, and I couldn’t wait to read The Gown by Jennifer Robson. World War 2 has ended, but England continues to struggle in the aftermath. One bright light: the engagement and upcoming wedding of Princess Elizabeth (the future Queen Elizabeth II) to Philip Mountbatten.
The Gown focuses on two young women: Ann Hughes and Miriam Dassin, embroiderers at the Normal Hartnell fashion house. Hartnell’s is the official fashion house of the Royal family; they create all the clothing for the Queen, Queen Mother, and both Princess Elizabeth and Margaret. Now, they have just a few short months to create a stunning wedding gown for Princess Elizabeth.
The novel moves back and forth between Ann, Miriam, and--in contemporary Toronto, Ann’s granddaughter Heather Mackenzie, who has recently lost her grandmother. A box containing embroidery samples-looking a lot like the embroidery on Elizabeth’s famous wedding gown--leads Heather on a path to London and a search for the life her grandmother lived before emigrating to Canada. What secrets will she uncover in her quest to understand her grandmother’s life in London?
The novel moves effortlessly between 1947 London and contemporary Toronto. The inside look at the creation of Princess Elizabeth’s wedding gown is fascinating—I found myself looking at photos and reading more about the gown as I read the novel. It also touches upon the devastating effects of World War 2, class differences, and an industry that relied on talented women to create works of art with their embroidery needles.
I highly recommend The Gown to anyone who loves historical fiction, World War 2 fiction, novels about women and friendship, and family dramas. Ann and Miriam are characters you won’t soon forget. This would make an excellent book club pick!
The Gown is available in the Metro Library Network in hardcover, ebook, and large print.
Sue Gerth, Collection Strategies Manager