The Gown is a historical novel about Queen Elizabeth’s wedding gown, bringing the story of 3 heroines, who must face secrets, betrayals, and society’s criticism. Robson is able to capture the workrooms of the 20th century, the lives of the embroiders all in a beautiful, enthralling tale. She has also researched, and looked through many sources for this portrayal. It was a captivating, and heart-breaking novel. Yet, Robson was still able to create a happy ending.
Title: The Gown
Author: Jennifer Robson
Publisher: William Morrow
Rating: ★★★★☆ (approximately 4.4)
*A copy has been provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review
What’s it about?
From the internationally bestselling author of Somewhere in France comes an enthralling historical novel about one of the most famous wedding dresses of the twentieth century—Queen Elizabeth’s wedding gown—and the fascinating women who made it.
“The Gown is marvelous and moving, a vivid portrait of female self-reliance in a world racked by the cost of war.”–Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Alice Network
“Millions will welcome this joyous event as a flash of color on the long road we have to travel.” —Sir Winston Churchill on the news of Princess Elizabeth’s forthcoming wedding
London, 1947: Besieged by the harshest winter in living memory, burdened by onerous shortages and rationing, the people of postwar Britain are enduring lives of quiet desperation despite their nation’s recent victory. Among them are Ann Hughes and Miriam Dassin, embroiderers at the famed Mayfair fashion house of Norman Hartnell. Together they forge an unlikely friendship, but their nascent hopes for a brighter future are tested when they are chosen for a once-in-a-lifetime honor: taking part in the creation of Princess Elizabeth’s wedding gown.
Toronto, 2016: More than half a century later, Heather Mackenzie seeks to unravel the mystery of a set of embroidered flowers, a legacy from her late grandmother. How did her beloved Nan, a woman who never spoke of her old life in Britain, come to possess the priceless embroideries that so closely resemble the motifs on the stunning gown worn by Queen Elizabeth II at her wedding almost seventy years before? And what was her Nan’s connection to the celebrated textile artist and holocaust survivor Miriam Dassin?
- From beginning to end, there was great extent of character development. Even now, if you ask me who my favorite character was- I wouldn’t be able to decide. Ann Hughes is an extraordinary embroider (one of the best), who works for Norman Hartnell. During this time, she is recovering from the aftermath of World War II, and has lost all her family. She continues to work long hours, save money for expenses, and yet, she never complains. Wow, who doesn’t love her already? *sends hugs to Ann* Wait until you read the end, she’s gone through even more struggles, and still persists to make a better life for herself. Not only is Ann compassionate, and kind to others, but she stays strong, and continues to love.
We only talked about one character, and there’s still so much more I can say.
- Robson is a phenomenal writer! What I love about this book is how the mystery slowly unravels. There are 3 perspectives: Ann, Miriam, and Heather, who are all interwoven together. The reader is able to get a glimpse of the past, and present. Ann and Miriam’s friendship is one of the strongest I’ve experienced, and Heather Mackenzie is trying to figure Nan’s (Ann) past. Her Nan leaves a box that says “for Heather”, filled with embroidery samples, and pictures.
- The scenes were descriptive, and delightful to read (especially the small interactions, and the thoughts of the characters). Plus, the background stories of Ann, and Miriam were interesting (and sad).
- I adored the direction of the plot, and the ending left me satisfied. Without spoiling too much, both of these ladies become independent, and successful, despite the many challenges they faced in England. Also, the way the events unfolded was crazy (in a good way)! It makes you think, is this really how it all began?
- It was a bit slow-paced, but readers are able to learn about minor/major characters very well.
- While I was reading, some events were predictable, perhaps it depends on the reader, even so, there were minor plot twists.
- There was some instant-romance (for example, Heather and Daniel). Most of the romance outings (aka “dating”) revolved around dinners at restaurants. It was a little dull, since readers don’t see their developing (romantic) interactions besides when they’re eating, but their conversations are engaging.
- This book might not be for everyone, since the perspectives change, readers also jump forward/back a few decades. You won’t lose track of this as the dates are written on the top of each chapter and the characters’ name.
- There is a scene that includes violence, and mature content. However, it isn’t too detailed or graphic.
Overall, I would recommend this if you like reading historical fiction, intrigue sprinkled with mystery, or a story about friendship, and loss. It was a great book that captivated my attention during late nights, and the holidays. You’ll be left stunned, and awed once you begin the novel- and then finish it.
Key: ★ = a full star (1), ☆ = half star (0.5)
Unique Plot: ★★★★
Emotional Response: ★★★★★
Writing Style/Prose: ★★★★☆
Average: ★★★★☆ (approximately 4.4)
Thank you for stopping by! I truly adored this book. If you would like to read this book or learn more about the author, links are below. What are your favorite historical novels?