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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Review: The Forgotten Seamstress by Liz Trenow

About the Book:
In 1910 London, a remarkable young seamstress is noticed by Queen Mary and given a position in the royal household. A century later, Caroline, a struggling designer, discovers a mysterious hand-me-down quilt with a curious verse embroidered into its lining. When Caroline learns that the fabric in the quilt is rare royal wedding silk and begins to dig deeper, she uncovers the extraordinary story of two women whose lives collide with devastating consequences. But that secret pales in comparison to the truth Caroline finally learns about herself.

Like patchwork, this novel is a composition of seemingly incongruous parts - via cassette recordings with the first-person narrator, Maria Romano, that weaves a fascinating history of her life as a seamstress for the Royal Family, of her affair with the Prince of Wales (and the later abdicated King Edward VIII). As Maria, now seventy-four, tells her story in an interview book while being confined at a mental hospital, we see into her wistful memories of love and lost, and the sadness perpetrates throughout the book as the second protagonist, Caroline, finds herself confused about her life, and the uncertainty that looms in her future.

What brings these dual plotlines together is a discovered heirloom of a rare silk, one tinged with both the happy and tragic times of Maria's life, and one which propelled Caroline to conduct a research for its origins, all the while learning about her own strength.

While I hold no knowledge of sewing or quilt-making, I was nonetheless impressed and enthralled with the meticulous detail by which the intricacies of Maria's designs and sewing were created, and it was told in such a manner that I could easily visualize the creations through these pages. 
Ultimately, while this book has had its share of humorous moments, it is at the core a heartrending historical fiction, a woven account of two women's lives, one tragic and resilient, and one with the capacity for change. Readers will, I hope, find much to take away in this story; perhaps courage, perhaps inspiration, and perhaps a belief in the threads that bind and connect people as a catalyst for great change. Even more, this seamlessly written tale is one that lovers of sewing could enjoy, if you don't find your heart breaking with the story itself.

About the Author: Liz Trenow is a former BBC and newspaper journalist, and author of The Last Telegram. Trenow’s family have been silk weavers for three hundred years, which has led to two novels with silk as their focal point. Visit her at

Advance Praise for The Forgotten Seamstress
“The characters are strong, caring and well developed, and the descriptions of the handmade quilts will appeal to those who also have passion for quilting. Trenow has written a spellbinding story that will keep readers up late to find out what happens next.” –RT Book Reviews
“The two narratives are seamlessly woven together, forming a heartrending tapestry of tragedy and resilience.” – Booklist
“A page-turner with eye-opening details about the conditions of mental hospitals in the 20th century, as well as the provenance of royal fabrics, the art of quilting, and the vagaries of modern interior design.” – Publishers Weekly
“Weaving together Caroline's and Maria’s journeys, Trenow meticulously stitches each piece of this engrossing story into a unified—and heartwarming—whole.” - Kirkus


  1. Aubrey Wynne AuthorMay 13, 2014 at 3:13 PM

    This looks fantastic. Love historicals and this one seems to have a twist. The cover is gorgeous. Thanks for posting. It's going on my TBR list for this summer.

  2. Thanks so much, Aubrey! :) It is really a good story.



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