Fascination with royal weddings is not a new phenomenon, and historical author Jennifer Robson uses the creation of the wedding gown for young Princess Elizabeth, as the setting for a novel about friendship, family secrets and story of survival.
The book centres on two time periods, post-war London and modern day Toronto. The winter of 1947 was the harshest in living memory, and despite their recent victory in the Second World War, the people of Britain were still living with shortages and rationing. One of few bright spots was the upcoming royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth to Philip Mountbatten. Due to rationing, the princess had to use ration coupons to pay for her dress which was created by designer Norman Hartnell. It is the fictionalized story of two of the embroiderers in Hartnell’s Mayfair fashion house, where the gown was created in secret; Ann Hughes and Miriam Dassin who forge an unlikely friendship, as they slowly divulge secrets from their pasts. Miriam, a French Jewish girl who lost everything during the Nazi occupation and Ann who lost family during the war as well, bond over their memories of the past and hopes for the future.
The modern day portion of the novel concerns the discovery by Ann’s granddaughter of the importance of the inheritance of embroidered flowers from a grandmother she never knew. Heather embarks on a quest to find out more about her Nan’s life, since this was a taboo topic in her family. Heading to England, she learns more about her grandmother, she meets Miriam and a whole new picture of her family history comes into view.
Robson is a masterful storyteller, letting you get into the mind and the hearts of her characters and she seems to have a special feeling for the war years and how the hardship and losses, as every level of society learned to cope with a changed world.