The Forgotten Seamstress
by Liz Trenow
Totally in love with this book! The Forgotten Seamstress is another book I found whilst browsing and the synopsis drew me in. I sew, so maybe the word “seamstress” sold me too, but regardless, I’m so happy I found this book. It was a beautiful story about love and loss and finding yourself (one of my favorite themes). I loved the sway between the past and present and how everything connected in the end. The plot was clever and the characters interesting . . .I just loved it.
The Forgotten Seamstress follows two heroines in two time periods: Maria and Caroline. Maria is a young seamstress serving the Prince of Wales’ household in the 1930’s, while Caroline is a recently single/jobless woman struggling to find her way in present day. The story oscillates between these two women’s stories, culminating in a beautiful ending. Spoilers: Maria is young and headstrong. Raised in an orphanage, she secures a job as a seamstress with her best friend, Nora, in the Buckingham Palace. She catches the eye of the Prince of Wales and they have a short affair, which leaves Maria pregnant. When she is close to delivering, she is taken away to an asylum where her baby is taken away from her as soon as he is born. Maria is desolate and forced to stay “tucked away” at the asylum where everyone tells her her past is a fantasy. She undergoes many treatments, one of which leaves her mute. A young woman comes in and helps her learn to speak again, for which Maria is forever grateful. When she is about 50, Nora finds Maria and is able to take her home. Maria is also reunited with her son’s family. He has died, but she finds his adopted mother and his daughter. Through this whole time Maria has been crafting a quilt that tells her life story and holds love and the truth to her story (a love letter from the Prince of Wales). The other protagonist, Caroline, is struggling with her future. She is in her thirties, recently broken up with her boyfriend of 5 years, and jobless. On top of it all her mother has dementia and is starting to get worse and need more looking after. She is going through her mom’s house and finds a mysterious, beautiful quilt that belonged to her grandmother. Something draws Caroline to the quilt and since she is jobless she decides to try and find out the quilt’s provenance. She asks a local reporter, Ben, to help her look into it. Slowly, they start unearthing Maria’s complex history and putting the pieces together. Things culminate when Caroline discovers a letter in her mom’s house, written to her father. It is from her grandmother and tells the story about how she was never able to have a baby, so her husband brought one home one day for her and even though it was mysterious (and shady) she accepted it and raised her son. When he was in school, she decided to volunteer at the asylum down the road where she met a seamstress who was mute. She helped her regain speech and learned that her baby was taken away the same day that she was given her baby boy. She puts things together and leaves, keeping silent until years later when she tells Maria the truth and introduces her to her granddaughter, Caroline. Caroline is shocked, but everything makes sense and she is finally able to have clarity and peace about her past and her future. She has always wanted to be an interior designer, so using the quilt as inspiration she launches her own business. Her mom is settled in a home nearby where Caroline can visit her often. She decides to run her business out of her mom’s home, sell her London flat, and naturally, she and Ben have fallen for each other and are starting a relationship. It is such a sweet ending! I just loved this book!
Summing it up: I absolutely loved this book and loved the history. There were sad/difficult moments, but it was beautiful and touching and inspiring. I definitely recommend it!
All the best, Abbey