Monday, June 2, 2014

The Forgotten Seamstress by Liz Trenow

Things are not going well in Caroline Meadows life at the moment.  She has just ended her long-term relationship when she and her partner realized that they weren't really in love.  Then she gets laid off at her job unexpectedly, making it more difficult to make both halves of the rent on her London apartment.  Even worse, her mom is starting the early stages of dementia, and Caroline realizes that a decision will have to be made about her mother's further living arrangements.

She goes down to the cottage where she grew up to help her mother clear things out.  While there, she uncovers a beautiful quilt, full of luxury fabrics and intricate needlework.  Since Caroline's ambition is to open a design business, she is intrigued by the quilt, but her mother can't remember much about who might have made it, just that it was in with Caroline's grandmother's things.  Caroline vaguely remembers a woman who may have lived with her grandmother who always seemed to be sewing.

With time on her hands, she starts an investigation of the quilt.  She soon determines that the woman who lived with her grandmother, Maria, was probably the quilt's creator.  As she researches further, she learns that Maria was institutionalized for decades in a mental hospital, where she was known as Queenie.  Queenie was the derisive nickname Maria was given as she insisted that she had worked as a seamstress for the queen, and that she had secretly given birth to the Prince of Wales son. 

There are two scenarios.  Either Maria was truly troubled, making up an elaborate fantasy to get through her humdrum life, or she was telling the truth and had been bundled away and deprived of a normal life for the sin of having a relationship that wasn't sanctioned by the royal family.  Can Caroline discover the truth so many years after the events occurred?

Liz Trenow has written an interesting novel that explores the scandal of the many lives buried away in the time period where women whose truth was inconvenient were hidden away against their will.  She uses the metaphor of the quilt to show how something beautiful can emerge in the worst of circumstances and how the truth will shine forward over time.  This book is recommended for readers of historical fiction.

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