“The Gown is marvelous and moving, a vivid portrait of female self-reliance in a world racked by the cost of war.” (Kate Quinn, author of The Alice Network)
From the internationally bestselling author of Somewhere in France comes an enthralling historical novel about one of the most famous wedding dresses of the twentieth century—Queen Elizabeth’s wedding gown—and the fascinating women who made it.
London, 1947: Besieged by the harshest winter in living memory, burdened by onerous shortages and rationing, the people of postwar Britain are enduring lives of quiet desperation despite their nation’s recent victory. Among them are Ann Hughes and Miriam Dassin, embroiderers at the famed Mayfair fashion house of Norman Hartnell. Together they forge an unlikely friendship, but their nascent hopes for a brighter future are tested when they are chosen for a once-in-a-lifetime honor: taking part in the creation of Princess Elizabeth’s wedding gown.
Toronto, 2016: More than half a century later, Heather Mackenzie seeks to unravel the mystery of a set of embroidered flowers, a legacy from her late grandmother. How did her beloved Nan, a woman who never spoke of her old life in Britain, come to possess the priceless embroideries that so closely resemble the motifs on the stunning gown worn by Queen Elizabeth II at her wedding almost seventy years before? And what was her Nan’s connection to the celebrated textile artist and holocaust survivor Miriam Dassin? (Publisher)
About the author
Interview with historian-turned-author Jennifer Robson
Jennifer Robson gives voice to historical women in The Gown
Life in 1948 England
Jennifer Robson’s novel centers on Queen Elizabeth’s wedding gown (CBC Radio interview)
The true story of Queen Elizabeth’s wedding dress
Norman Hartnell dress designs
Review of The Gown
1. Two years after the end of World War II, life was still characterized by hardship in England and yet there was great excitement about the royal wedding and opulent gown. Why do you think that was?
2. Two of the main characters – Ann and Miriam – experienced great suffering during and after the war. How did their friendship lead to healing for both women?
3. Was Ann right never to have revealed her past over the decades to her family? Would you have done the same?
4. Did you find Heather’s 2016 storyline as engaging as the historical part of the novel? Why or why not?
5. The Gown – an historical novel about two women who work on Princess Elizabeth’s wedding dress – was on bestseller lists for months. Why was it so popular, and what does The Gown have to say to readers living in 2020?
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Welcome to Connected eBook Club! As library book club hosts at St. Albert Public Library, we invite you to read the ebook we’ve selected for discussion, explore the background and author information, and share your thoughts in the Discussion area. Unlike our in-person book clubs, this space will allow for longer-term conversations. You’re invited to join in the discussion on your own time.
Geoff, Luise and Sheila
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Our Monday Book Club meeting, originally scheduled for April 6, is being converted to a “virtual” discussion of the book The Empress of Idaho by Todd Babiak via email. Members are being contacted and can participate via email. Non-members are welcome to add their comments to the blog!
About the book …
Monument, Colorado, July 1989. Fourteen-year-old Adam Lisinski is mesmerized the moment Beatrice Cyr steps into his life. Adam has a lot going for him: he’s hoping to be a starter on his high school football team, he has a fiercely protective mom, a girlfriend, and a part-time job at Eugene’s Gas Stop, where he works with his best friend. But he neglects everything that matters to him after Beatrice, his neighbour’s enigmatic new wife, comes to town. Soon he finds himself alone with her–in the change room at Modern You, a clothing store on Second Street; in the back row of the theatre at Chapel Hill Cinema; in the front seat of her truck. He’s confused about who she is, what she wants, and where she comes from. Adam is desperate, caught between wanting to spend time with Beatrice–whose past is catching up with her–and lying to everyone he cares about. The guilt overwhelms him. And when Beatrice convinces Adam’s mom to quit her job and partner in a risky real estate venture, he has to do something before everything spins further out of control. The plan he comes up with tests his courage and leads him to an unshakable truth about loyalty and love.
By turns riveting and tender-hearted, The Empress of Idaho is a story about the vulnerability and confusion of adolescence at the moment when it slams against adulthood. It’s an unforgettable portrait of a boy’s difficult coming of age.
About the author …
A CBC Radio Next Chapter interview with Todd Babiak
An Edmonton Journal book review
A Quill and Quire book review
Discussion questions (Penguin Random House reading guide)
Research article on female sexual predators
Our Seniors Book Club meeting, originally scheduled for April 8, is being converted to a “virtual” discussion of the book Clock Dance by Anne Tyler via email. Members are being contacted and can participate via email. Non-members are welcome to add their comments to the blog!
About the book
“Willa Drake can count on one hand the defining moments of her life. In 1967, she is a schoolgirl coping with her mother’s sudden disappearance. In 1977, she is a college coed considering a marriage proposal. In 1997, she is a young widow trying to piece her life back together. And in 2017, she yearns to be a grandmother but isn’t sure she ever will be. Then, one day, Willa receives a startling phone call from a stranger. Without fully understanding why, she flies across the country to Baltimore to look after a young woman she’s never met, her nine-year-old daughter, and their dog, Airplane. This impulsive decision will lead Willa into uncharted territory–surrounded by eccentric neighbors who treat each other like family, she finds solace and fulfillment in unexpected places”– Provided by publisher.
About the author
An Interview with the author
A New York Times book review
A Guardian book review