Thursday, 7 May 2015

What should have been as fine and detailed as the quilting on a quilt was rather more like tacking stitches instead

Maybelle can't sew.  But when she finds an unfinished quilt in the attic of her mother's house, she gets the crazy idea to complete it.  At first, it's just a way to fill the lonely nights while her husband, staff sergeant Holden Kanzinzki, is away fighting in World War II.

Yet when Maybelle discovers that the quilt is made from scraps of material that can be traced through her family heritage, the project is suddenly much more important.  Then word comes that Holden is missing in action, and with little else to do, Maybelle clings to the quilt as much as to the hope that her husband is still alive.  As neighborhood friends gather round Maybelle to hep her through the unknown days and nights ahead, it is the quilt that becomes a symbol of her unflagging belief that Holden will return - to her, to their home, and to their quilt-covered bed.

I love historic fiction, and a love story and anything to do with sewing (I am a quilter myself) but this book fell very flat for me.  I can understand that people who have family serving in wartime will constantly think of them but Maybelle is such a weak soppy character even though she welds ships. It seems that she has been coddled by her mother and has no domestic capabilities. 

During a clearing out session Maybelle comes across a quilt that her mother had started.  She was persuaded by her best friend Doris to complete the quilt and got a couple of girls to help.  I personally would have just edged the already created section and make a cushion cover as how would one know what fabric her mother had planned to use next.  But then if that was the case there would be no story.

This novel lacks so much detail.  Maybelle can weld but not sew and that is all we get.  We are given no detail of her work in the ship yard.  Was it heavy work, was it hot.  How intricate did she need to be, how was she recruited to that rather than a land girl?

Then again the fabric that Maybelle found and the threads used for the quilt were equally passed over.  What were service stripes for example, what were they made of?  What colour were they.  What colour was Lois’s baby blanket?  So many rich and varied pieces of the pattern were left unanswered.  It was a means to engage the first from the ship yard and to while away the hours until the next shift.  Instead of a weekly meeting, as would appear to be the norm, these girls meet every day after their shift in the ship yard.

The quilt turned into a monster and it was a shame that the group didn’t each take part of the original quilt and add to it to make a series of quilts; in that way they would all have had a piece of each other’s memories, hopes and dreams.  It is clear that the quilt started to represent many things to the girls that worked on it (the quilt), not least it was a way for coping with the redundancy of life and a bright hope for the future; and a loved one’s return.  There was obviously more than enough fabric to make a series of Hope quilts that could have kept all of the girls warm.

We do get quite a lot about trusting God and leaving your troubles with him.  But this is more from the viewpoint of Doris that Maybelle who seems to have lost faith (as we all do from time to time).  Unlike other religious based books though the mentions of religion here did not seem in the least bit false.  Perhaps religion played a greater part in people’s lives during WWII.

Although this book is readable it is not really about the quilt or the lives of the girls it is more about faith.  This reader was ultimately disappointed in what could have been a wonderfully rich novel.  The intention was there but unfortunately, the execution was rather lacking.  This short read sell well short of this readers expectations

I think that perhaps part of my disappointment was as a result of reading this ARC what as littered with errors.  Not only did the author use the wrong names in at least two sequences but there was a whole chunk where the timeline was totally out.  It is this reader’s fervent hope that these errors were corrected before this novel went to final print.

Another factor leading to this reader's disappointment was that the synopsis and the novel are really at odds.  If these things don't bother you and you like snapshots of life during 1940's America then this is for you.  If you want a book about quilts, you are better off reading The Forgotten Seamstress by Liz Trenow.

Full Disclosure: I received a free copy from Netgalley for an honest review.

I rated this book 2 stars on Netgalley and 'I did not like it' on Goodreads (1 star) and Amazon (2 stars).

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