It was for England in 1947 and the world longed for a bit of time when they could forget their troubles and revel in the beautiful fairly tale wedding of Princess Elizabeth to Philip Mountbatten. Englanders was ready for some happiness, some joy in their lives, and this wedding, this dress, this occasion would be just the ticket for some hours of gaiety after the long hard won war.
Told with a well thought out, well researched background, we are led into the world of the designer Norman Hartnell, the man who made and designed clothes for royalty and of course the wealthy. We are given an in depth look into the lives of two fictional women who were embroiderers and worked on Elizabeth’s gown. It was a monumental effort and all the ladies involved were ever so honored to be chosen for this task.
The main protagonists are ones who were deeply affected by the war. One of them, Miriam Dassin, a French Jewish girl, lost family and everything during the Nazi occupation. She immigrates to England and starts her job at Hartnell’s. The other girl, Ann Hughes, has also suffered the hardships of war, losing her much loved family member is dead, and having her sister in law immigrated to Canada. Working at Hartnells, Miriam and Ann form a deep friendship. They share their woes and their dreams and memories of the past with hope for the future. This job of being embroiderers was indeed, for them, a dream job.
The author does a fine job capturing the sentiment of the time and the utter enthusiasm of the British populace for this glimpse of wedding happiness. She has the book flip back and forth between time periods, one now in the present and one in the past of the late 1940s. She introduces Ann’s granddaughter who through an inheritance of embroidered flowers, seeks to find the story of her grandmother that she never knew.
Interspersed between the stories of these two girls, is the making of the gown. The detail, the design, the hours spent working on this dress made one know so well how dutifully these women and Mr Hartnell took their job of making a dress fit for a Princess.
I so enjoy historical fiction and this book managed to educate me on many things I was never aware of.. such as the ration books used by the people as well as by the Royal Family, even after the war was over, as well as the lovely story behind how each girl working at Hartnell’s were able to sew a stitch on Elizabeth’s dress thus ensuring their part in its making. When you learn something from a book, it ever so fascinating. To all of us who so enjoy historical fiction book, this is one I recommend.
and here’s the author:
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.