Monday, November 2, 2020

The Gown

I've heard really good things about The Gown by Jennifer Robson, and I finally got around to giving it a read (thanks to my mom for lending it to me!)  

The Gown is the story of the making of Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II)'s wedding gown in post-WWII Britain.  The story is told through three perspectives: Ann, one of the Senior Embroiderers at Hartnell's, Miriam, a French embroiderer who moved to England to start a new life (and who ends up at Hartnell's), and Heather, Ann's granddaughter who is trying to piece together her grandmother's early life after Ann passes away and leaves her some embroidery samples from the wedding gown. The book shows how hard life was for people living in Britain after the war as the country rebuilds; Princess Elizabeth's wedding was an occasion to look forward to in the middle of just trying to survive.

While it took me a bit to get into at first, I really did like The Gown.  I liked Ann and Miriam, and their friendship and how they looked after one another.  I had a harder time getting into Heather's story, which was set in modern times (I was definitely not impressed with how Heather's mother broke the news of her grandmother's death to her), but once she got to London and met Daniel, I started to enjoy that too.  While I was devastated by what happened to Ann (although part of me suspected that something like that *might* happen due to the difference in social class between her and Jeremy - though I did not suspect his motives), I loved what happened to Miriam (and how absolutely perfect Walter was for her, willing to give her whatever time and space she needed).

I also really enjoyed reading the extras at the end of the book. The condensed interview with one of the real-life seamstresses from Hartnell's who worked on the wedding gown was fascinating; I also enjoyed Robson's notes on the research she did (and how difficult it was to do!)

I did find the ending of the book to be a bit lacking though.  The book really culminated in the royal wedding and when Heather finally got to see Miriam's embroideries.  While what happened after that did wrap things up, it all felt largely unnecessary (especially since we already knew that Ann ended up in Canada, so her subdued goodbye to Miriam and Walter was unnecessary; likewise the chapter with Miriam and Walter because we already knew they ended up together). 

But all in all, I really enjoyed reading The Gown.  Once I got into it, I flew through it; I really enjoyed this look at these women's lives in post-war Britain.

No comments: