A stunning novel set in the Edwardian era about a seamstress working at Buckingham Palace. Full of drama, betrayal and addictive real-life detail - The Forgotten Seamstress by Liz Ternow is perfect for fans of Kate Morton and Joanne Harris.
When Caroline Meadows discovers a beautiful quilt in her mother's attic, she sets out on a journey to discover who made it, and the meaning of the mysterious message embroidered into its lining.
Many years earlier, before the first world war has cast its shadow, Maria, a talented seamstress from the East End of London, is employed to work for the royal family. A young and attractive girl, she soon catches the eye of the Prince of Wales and she in turn is captivated by his glamour and intensity.
But careless talk causes trouble and soon Maria's life takes a far darker turn.
Can Caroline piece together a secret history and reveal the truth behind what happened to Maria?
Historical fiction is not usually by forte but anything to do with sewing interests me (I am a quilter, embroiderer and cross-stitcher); this is another reason Netgalley is so great, you can read outside your comfort zone.
The way the stories are melded together is rather original and keeps you hooked making the reader want to know what happens next. I must confess that I thought the method of portraying the two stories was confusing but after a while I was completely hooked. Although the maker of the quilt (the seamstress) is the central figure in this book you never meet her only learning about her piecemeal through tapes, letters and personal narratives/remembered histories. This offers an exquisite juxtaposition to the forward story and is immensely enchanting.
I found what happened to Maria was awful but this reader was previously aware that such things happened to women like her, yet through the diligent efforts of one of her nurses she manages to escape her torment and live out the remainder of her life happily.
The characters were wonderfully written and I fell in love with both these women and the obstacles that they faced during their life journey (or at least the part of it what we were a party to). The different points of view are intriguing laying story over story much like the quilt the main protagonist was making.
Being a quilter myself, I was shocked at one occurrence in the book thought there might have been an ulterior motive to it. I loved the fact that Maria used pieces of fabric that were historically significant and that they discovered something unusual. You will need to find out what that was by reading the novel yourself. The quilt was such an integral element to this novel it became a character in its own right.
Although I guessed the ending way beforehand this did not detract anything from this beautifully crafted piece of prose. In short this was a moving tale of love and loss, faith and enduring hope even against the injustices that people face, through no fault of their own. It also highlights that life is a journey and no one is sure where the road they are travelling will lead.
This novel has stayed with me for many weeks after reading. Please can we have more works of fiction like this (especially ones that contain quilting). In fact I hated the fact that this book ended, I wanted it to go on and on and on. This is my first encounter of the work by Liz Trenow and it will not be my last.
If you want a compelling beautifully crafted read then this will be for you.
Full Disclosure: ARC received from Netgalley for an honest review.
I rated this 5 stars on Netgalley and 'I really liked it/I loved it' on Amazon (5 stars) and Goodreads (5 stars).