April 26. 2019
The Gown by Jennifer Robson
Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Royal Wedding, 1940s England
*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.
The Gown is, in part, a behind-the-scenes story of the making of Princess (Queen) Elizabeth’s wedding gown. As the people of England endure a harsh winter and post war shortages and rationing, news of a Royal wedding brightens the country’s spirit. Told from two perspectives, we hear the imagined story of two young women who work for the famous fashion house of Norman Hartnell. Although the girls are accustomed to working on exclusive gowns for high profile clients and the Royal family, the newest assignment of a wedding gown for Princess (Queen) Elizabeth brings extraordinary pressure and excitement. A third perspective and modern timeline follows one of their granddaughters who travels to London a half century later to unravel her grandmother’s mysterious and secret past. There’s more to the story than the dress as the author gives us an idea of what life was like in 1940s London, and explores themes of friendship, family, and love.
Amazon Rating: 4.6 Stars
Loved It: I loved this well-researched story of 1940s London, strong women, friendship, and the making of a famous wedding gown. It falls into the category of “must read” for fans who are looking for non World War histfic. With the exception of one ***trigger warning, it’s a light, engaging, and lovely read that’s rich in vivid historical details and thoughtful themes. The Royal Wedding is a small part of the story; so don’t stay away if you’re not enamored with the Royal Family. The Gown has so much more to offer than that (the subtitle is a bit misleading).
Characters: I love the two well developed 1947 characters (and timeline). Ann is a hard working, single girl who is dedicated to her job in the workroom of the fashion house, enduring long hours of tedious and exacting work. I appreciate her love of gardening and her upbeat outlook on life in spite of her financial struggles. Miriam has recently arrived from France and is struggling to rebuild her life as a Holocaust survivor. After she boldly secures employment in the workroom, the two young girls form a friendship and provide each other support and encouragement. Ann affirms Miriam in her gift of creating exquisite tapestries and Miriam offers Ann encouragement to take control of the direction of her life. I love characters I can root for and who feel like friends at story’s end.
Setting: Readers will appreciate vivid details of life in post war London and a peek into the daily life and struggles of single women and the working environment in the workrooms of the Norman Hartnell fashion house. We gain a glimpse into the Palace dressing rooms on the day of the wedding and some details of the ceremony itself.
Themes: Those who follow my reviews know that I love stories with substantial themes. The Gown has thoughtful themes that include the bonds of friendship, women supporting women, a heartfelt granddaughter/grandmother relationship, family, taking risks, determination to move forward in life, and love.
***Trigger Warning: One incident of a non consensual sexual encounter. Otherwise, there is no violence, profanity, or explicit sexual content.
Recommended: Most certainly, The Gown will be on my best of year list! It’s a joy to highly recommend this engaging, poignant, and well-researched story for readers who seek lighter histfic, for those who appreciate vivid historical settings, for fans of thoughtful themes, for women who enjoy sewing and/or embroidery, for ardent enthusiasts of Royal family weddings, for readers looking for an outstanding summer read, and for book clubs.
My Rating: 4.5 Stars (Rounded to 5 stars on Goodreads)
Meet the author, Jennifer Robson
Jennifer Robson first learned about the Great War from her father, acclaimed historian Stuart Robson, and later served as an official guide at the Canadian National War Memorial at Vimy Ridge, France. A former copy editor, she holds a doctorate in British economic and social history from the University of Oxford. She lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband and young children.
Have I encouraged you to add this to your TBR or have you read The Gown?
Are you fascinated by the history of the gown’s construction?
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In a few days I’ll have a monthly wrap up and the A-Z of Me, Part 2 post. I also look forward to bringing you two more great reviews in May (waiting until close to pub date for my reviews) and a Mother’s Day post. Lots of good reading ahead!
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