Monday, June 9, 2014


By Liz Trenow
Published by Sourcebooks  Landmarks on May 6, 2014
Paperback and kindle edition, 336 pages
Historical fiction, contemporary novel, women's fiction
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
She kept her secret for a lifetime...
A shy girl with no family, Maria Romano knows she's lucky to have landed in the sewing room of the royal household. Before World War I casts its shadow, she catches the eye of the Prince of Wales, a glamorous and intense gentleman. But her life takes a far darker turn, and soon all she has left is a fantastical story about her time at Buckingham Palace.
Decades later, Caroline Meadows discover a beautiful quilt in her mother's attic. When she can't figure out the meaning of the message embroidered into its lining, she embarks on a quest to reveal its mystery, a puzzle that only seems to grow more important to her own heart. As Caroline pieces together the secret history of the quilt, she comes closer and closer  to the truth about Maria.
My Review
"I stitched my love into this quilt,
Sewn it neatly, proud and true.
Though you have gone, I must live on,
And this will hold me close to you."
The Forgotten Seamstress by Liz Trenow was one of those books you forcefully had to yank me away from. Its riveting and heartrending story held me captive from cover to cover; its brilliant execution pleased me to no end. The novel encompasses the 'turn-of-the-century' lifetime of Maria Romano, an East End London orphan with exceptional needlework skills, and unfolds, over a period of about a century and with dramatic repercussions, in the life of a modern day North Essex woman, Caroline Meadows, who shares with the protagonist the same dressmaking talent and a long kept secret. 
I think that this dual timeline narration immediately found its stride - technically and thematically. The meticulous and intimate use of a first person POV on both ends of the time spectrum, in addition to the clever use of an unusual narrative tool (Maria's side of the story is narrated through  transcripts from recorded cassette tapes) added texture and a 'feel' of authenticity to the quilt-like pattern of Trenow's narrative. The idea that the same protagonist of that story may not be an entirely reliable narrator (Maria reveals her 'secret' while she is under psychiatric ward) engages the reader with an extra and sophisticated layer of thought-provoking perspective. 

"Was all of that just a fantasy too? Perhaps most of the story was true, or just delicately embroidered, like Maria's elegant stitching? But wherever the truth lay, I loved her descriptions of how she had made the quilt and how she had designed the individual frames. [...] Her history was held in the fabrics she'd used, the designs and the appliqued figures. It was the patchwork of a life [...]. Hidden in the quilt was the complete vindication of  a woman who had been disbelieved and dismissed as a fantasist for most of her life."
All in all, a soul-stirring story that will satisfy any historical fiction reader and quilting virtuoso with its fascinating tidbits of quilting art and shimmering portrait of the Edwardian Era and its class-divisions. It will widely appeal to contemporary novel fans  in the mood for an emotionally and socially poignant tale as well. Highly recommended.


***Review e-copy graciously offered by the Publisher via Net-Galley in return for an unbiased and honest review


  1. Captivating review Mina. Captivating! I've had my eye on this book for a long time and this review cinches that it's a must read!

    1. I am loving this dual-timeline trend in fiction. I find it quite refreshing and a great fit for readers who don't want to get stuck with an exclusively historical or contemporary perspective. Definitely a must-read.

  2. I missed out on this one from Netgalley. Seems so good.

    1. It's a good one, Mystica! Get a copy as soon as you can. Thank you for stopping by :)