The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding, Jennifer Robson

Eight stars

Jennifer Robson appeals to those who love all things ‘British Royals’ as well as fans of historical fiction with her latest piece. How something like the wedding gown worn by Princess Elizabeth could garner so much attention may confound some, but it all becomes clear by the end of this novel. Ann Hughes is employed by Norman Hartnell , a high-end couturier that has recently been asked to make some dresses for the Royal Family. So busy is the shop that when Miriam Dassin arrives from France, her skills make her a wonderful addition to the group of embroiderers. While the group gets to know a little more about Miriam, they learn that she is quite tight-lipped about her life before coming to England, as though it is all a major secret. Soon thereafter, Hartnell is told that his shop will be making Princess Elizabeth’s wedding gown, creating a buzz amongst the embroiderers. As Ann and Miriam work, they grow closer to one another, slowly divulging secrets about their respective pasts. When not working on the gown—a top-secret project—they find themselves discovering the allure of the opposite sex. As both Miriam and Ann are young and unmarried, it only makes sense that they turn a few heads. The story tells how both women discover love amidst the backdrop of the most sought after social event of 1947. Speed ahead to Toronto in 2016, Ann’s granddaughter, Heather, makes a discover she will not soon forget. Learning that her grandmother worked on the current Queen’s wedding gown, Heather rushes to England to discover a little more, knowing little about her grandmother’s past before arriving in Canada. It is there that she learns that the famous designer, Miriam Dassin, not only knew her grandmother, but worked alongside her. As Heather makes meaningful connections in England to better understand the life her grandmother left behind, she is touched beyond belief to better understand the life Miriam lived before making it to England to work on the project of a lifetime. Uplifting and heartwarming, as well as full of historical anecdotes, Robson dazzles readers with this piece that is sure to create quite the fanfare! Recommended for those who enjoy historical fiction, as well as the reader whose interest is piqued by talk of royal events.

While I tend not to read stories with strong romantic undertones, I could not help but want to read this piece. I noticed its premise—the wedding gown to the current Queen of Canada—and could not help but wonder if the threads of historical fiction would counterbalance the amorous themes. Robson not only details the characters, but creates a persona of the gown as it is being created. Ann Hughes is a young woman whose life has centred around her sketches and ability to embroider Given this chance to work on the gown, she puts her all into it, perhaps blinded by the world around her and those seeking an early peek at this most talked about piece of fabric. Miriam Dassin has been through so much even before she graces the pages of this book, showing how her backstory helps push her into a world of excitement and secrets, all of which are slowly revealed. Heather’s revelations about her grandmother exemplify for the reader just how little was know about Ann before she arrived in Canada, leaving her family in the dark. As these three women grow in their respective storylines, the one thing tying them all together is the wedding gown, whose importance pales in comparison to the life lessons discovered, but seems to be something about which all three women can use to grow in their own way. The story proves strong and lasts, keeping the reader hooked through the various shifts in time. While there is a regal theme throughout, this does not drown out some of the other narratives that blossom as the story gets more intense. Robson has a way of keeping the narrative flowing without the need to spin the reader in circles. While this is the first piece of Jennifer Robson’s that I have read, I hope it will not be the last.

Kudos, Madam Robson, for a piece that entertained me throughout, while keeping me wondering what awaited around the next corner. You deserve all the praise you receive and I am eager to explore what else you’ve written in your career.

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