It's more than a year after the Allies declared victory, and the people of Great Britain are still facing the lingering privations of wartime. Princess Elizabeth's engagement to Prince Philip of Greece gives the citizenry a celebration to look forward to. For the coterie of seamstresses working under London designer Norman Hartnell, it means something else: a once-in-a-lifetime chance to work on Elizabeth's wedding gown.
Novelist Jennifer Robson (Moonlight over Paris) stitches together the story of The Gown through the narratives of two seamstresses: the young Englishwoman Ann Hughes and Miriam Dassin, a French refugee who becomes Ann's colleague and friend. Woven throughout is the story of Heather Mackenzie, Ann's Canadian granddaughter, who inherits a box of elaborate embroidered flowers after her grandmother's death. Puzzled and intrigued by the flowers, which bear a striking resemblance to those on Queen Elizabeth's wedding gown, Heather hops a plane to London to trace the mystery of her grandmother's life and career.
Robson constructs her narrative with the skill and precision displayed by Ann and Miriam as they work on the gown. All three protagonists are dealing with loss and heartbreak. Ann is still mourning her brother and her parents, who died during the war. Miriam carries the trauma of her family's deaths and her own experiences at Ravensbrück. Heather's grief over losing Ann is compounded by being laid off from her magazine job, and her gradual realization that her beloved "Nan" had an entire life in England that she never shared. Like the gown itself and the tapestries Miriam creates, Robson's novel stitches together disparate components into an elegant whole. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams