Colette

Colette Book Club Discussion: The Forgotten Seamstress

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I hope you enjoyed reading The Forgotten Seamstress by Liz Trenow. I read this novel in one sitting on a cross-country flight. I was tired, and emotional, and I have to confess that I cried a little at the sad parts (especially when Caroline’s mom has to move out of her home). I’m really excited to discus the book with you guys! If you haven’t finished it, you can still join in the chat, but the end will probably get spoiled for you.

forgotten

Discussion Questions

1) What did you think of the book?

2) If you found out that you might be descended from royalty, how would you react? Would you try to claim your place or would you keep it a secret?

3) This book deals with risk and security. Maria knows that she’s risking her job when she has an affair with a man she can never marry—but she ends up losing much more than that. When Caroline loses her steady banking job, she starts a risky but fulfilling career as an interior designer. If you took a risk, what would it be?

4) You can see a pattern for Maria’s quilt and different versions that people have made on Liz Trenow’s website. Did it look the way you imagined? Would you like to make a quilt based on this book?

5) Have you read Liz Trenow’s other book about silk, The Last Telegram? Would you recommend it? By the way, if you like Liz Trenow, there’s good news: she’s writing another novel about the silk trade, and it comes out in 2017!

Kat Siddle   —  

Kat Siddle is a librarian and fashion school dropout from Vancouver, B.C. She blogs about beauty and sewing at www.prettyscavenger.com.

Comments 87

Nethwen

1) I liked the overall story, but the parts that took place in the palace seemed to be stilted, especially the dialogue between the lovers. The modern part of the story and the interview parts ran smoothly and the dialogue felt natural, but the old parts seemed less polished – more like the best sellers that are written to get a new book on the shelf rather than focusing on good writing.

The most interesting part to me was the changing mores around mental health and what to do with people we don’t want to acknowledge. It breaks my heart to think of all those people who were essentially abused because they were inconvenient for the people around them. Even if the methods have changed, I don’t think the basic premise that people who are different need to be separated from the rest of society or medicated to become less different has changed. I’ll admit things have changed for the better since the nineteenth century, but I think we still have a long, long way to go.

2) I would keep it a secret. I have enough restraints on my life; I don’t need more or to worry about stalkers or groupies. Ok, I’m human. I might try to get the perks without the responsibility. Maybe go for years without saying anything, but then whipping out my “royalty card” when I need to smooth the way.

3) Last year I took a risk by accepting a promotion. If it turned out I was miserable as a library director, I think it would be very difficult for me to be hired in a subordinate position because people would be worried that I wouldn’t take direction well after having a taste of being the final power. Accepting the promotion felt like I was potentially risking my entire career and might have to find a different field of work where I wouldn’t be as fulfilled. Thankfully, year in, and all is well.

4) The quilt pattern looks less busy than I imagined. The pattern looks more cohesive than I envisioned. I would not make a quilt because quilting doesn’t appeal to me – too many little pieces and it doesn’t fit my decorative style.

5) I haven’t read Ms. Trenow’s other book, but wouldn’t object. The
Forgotten Seamstress might not be at the top of the list for quality, but it kept me turning the pages and I never had to take a break because the method of delivery was so painful it got in the way of the story. I would give this book a 7 out of 10, but I can only think of a handful of books that I would give a 10.

Kat

Oh hey, another library person! High-five! I’m a librarian who is not at the director level, so your risk answer was really interesting for me.

Mary Ann

I agree, the quilt pattern and the quilts shown were not as intricate as I had envisioned, and far less embroidery than it described. Although, to me almost any quilt is lovely.

Deb

I found the quilt very difficult to envision. I wish the publishers had included a simple drawing of the design in the book (of course, I listened to it on audio, so that wouldn’t help, would it?). Anyway, thanks for providing the links to the actual pattern and the quilts made by others.

Wai

Thank you for suggesting this book. Thoroughly enjoyed it – great storylines touching on sensitive issues, some still very relevant in today’s society, even though the story was set over 50 years ago.

Although I found the switch between Maria’s and Caroline’s stories confusing at first, it wasn’t too long before I was drawn into their world through the inclusion of familiar London landmarks, famous historical figures, and events from history.

I can totally relate to Caroline’s enthusiasm and doubts when she embarks on pursuing her first love of interior design – I’m in a similar situation. But this is also a blessing in disguise! I, for one, got stuck in the treadmill of working to pay bills, but now have the opportunity to pursue a more fulfilling path – set up a sewing cafe or fabric place?

Have started reading “The Last Telegram” and, again, Liz Trevor manages to weave storytelling, with history.

Erin

I listened to this book via Audible, and enjoyed the audiobook version! I love historical fiction, especially those books that take place in the UK, so this book was right up my alley.

1. Although this story was entertaining because of the time period and the setting and the story of the mental asylum and the details of sewing and quilt making, the overall novel felt like there were some holes missing in the story. The Royal Palace story felt especially rushed, and the part of Caroline meeting up with the extended family of a friend who took Maria in seemed like fluff. The part of the story of the quilt being stolen and spoiled hurt my heart.

I would recommend this book to others who like quick reads that include 19th-c historical fiction.

2. I don’t think I would try to claim a place, per se, I would just be interested in learning more about the Royal Family overall.

3. I’m the antithesis of a risk taker, so I wouldn’t risk it all like Maria had just to have a few romps with the prince. I understand her relationship with him was fulfilling a desperate need for love and acceptance, but she had a decent gig as the Royal seamstress.

4. I listened to this book a couple of weeks ago so the quilt details are a little fuzzy. I just kept imagining the quilt to be mainly ivory and hues of yellow. I still couldn’t imagine paper letters secretly sewn into the quilt, and having them go unnoticed for decades.

5. I hope The Last Telegram is available as an audiobook, because I’m so there!

Thank you for selecting this book. I’m open to “reading” all stories sewing-related!

Pilar pilarbear.com

An audiobook is an interesting idea. How did you find the voices for the characters? The book suggests Maria has quite a peculiar one, do you think they make her justice?

Erin

Pilar- the voices were great! Maria had a more blue collar accent, and it was a little raspy considering she was an older character. The narrator did an excellent job distinguishing the different characters with her voice.

Brenda Marks

I listened to the audible book, too. While the narrator did attempt different accents for different characters, compared to other audio books, this was difficult to listen to. Be sure to download a sample first! I kept going so that I could participate in this book discussion. : )

Deb

I also listened to this book on audio and I loved it. The reader does an excellent job with the different voices, and for me, an American, the reader’s British speech gave it an authenticity that most likely would have been missing in my own reading of it.

Kat

I was very stressed out by the quilt being stolen too! That was possibly the most gripping part for me :D

Rebekah

And it was so DIIIIRTY when they found it.

Chrissy chrissyweeks.com

That was killing me!

Caroline igloovert.blogspot.ca

I think servants life could never feel fulfilled ; Women even more, being discouraged from dating and marrying meant to quit your job.

nellie mamapeaches.com

1) I thought the book had a great narrative arc and interesting historical context surrounding mental health in the early 20th century. Many times, I found the parts about Maria and the prince to be a little outrageous and not quite believable. I loved the details about Maria’s quilt. I liked the secondary story about Caroline and her parents. Overall, the book was well-written and kept me interested.

2) I would keep it a secret. I often wonder, due to so many illicit affairs, the number of people who are really descended from royalty!

3) If I took a risk, it would probably be similar to Caroline’s– giving up a steady job to pursue a passion and start a business. I do believe Liz Trenow captured the fear and paralyzing feelings that Caroline experienced well. I do like how she took something out of her personal history and made it a part of her own creative narrative and the launch of her business.

4) As a quilter, I was very fascinated with Maria’s quilt. I would love to see the “Royal silks” and detailed handwork. The pattern design shared on Liz Trenow’s website looks rather simple and not what I imagined it would be. I do like the central panel with the lovers’ knot. I would consider making it, but not entirely by hand!

5) No. I haven’t read Liz Trenow’s other book, but I am definitely interested! I love stories about makers and the provenance of handmade things.

Pilar pilarbear.com

Oh, I’d love to see the royal silks and the hand stitched appliqué too, they just sound totally delightful.
Does anyone know whether the silk described actually exists and whether can be seen in any museum?

Orangie

They definitely exist, and you can see them in wedding portraits of the Queen. But I don’t know if they are in a museum anywhere.

Lia Bell accidentallyrural.com

Check this out! http://www.hrp.org.uk/playlists/slideshow/royal-wedding-dresses/

The Historic Royal Palace (Kensington Palace, specifically) has an entire collection of wedding dresses, including Princess Mary’s! All of the silks and laces in these dresses are gorgeous, but the May Silks are especially pretty!

If you want to see the hand-woven silks that Warner and Son’s designed for the British Royalty, you can actually go visit their archive (info on that here: http://www.warnertextilearchive.co.uk/visiting-the-archive/)!

Here’s a site that has a nice overview with some gorgeous samples: http://spitalfieldslife.com/2015/05/30/from-the-warner-textile-archive/

The BBC also has a gorgeous image of the Queensway Coronation Silk: http://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/objects/qagLeTRVSd–ns8iAAVUSg

Cindy in NM

Thank you for posting these links!

Kim

I so enjoyed this book. Over the last few years I’ve not been reading much what with ‘Binge Watching’ as the new time waster lol. But this book was a gem for me. I really enjoyed it and though many of the things that happened seemed a bit extreme I can a,so see how they could happen. Would I spill the beans if I was Royal – maybe not because of what I’d have to endure Nd the battles to legitimize it. For me it would just be too much trouble . I applaud the risks these two women took to go after what they wanted even when, for one of them it was disastrous. I tend to follow the straight and narrow and never color outside the lines but Oh so what to. I do want to pick up the last telegram . I’m sure I’d like it

piggyflowers etsy.com

The Forgotten Seamstress gets my “potato chip book” label: it’s not good for me literary-wise, but I keep reading it any way. When I was reading it, I wished I’d checked out the audiobook version to see how it worked with the different voices.

In today’s world of medical privacy, I was shocked that Caroline was able to listen to Maria’s tapes so easily. But she had to solve the mystery somehow.

As a US citizen, I can’t imagine being a royal descendant. But if it was Hollywood royalty, I might ask for a reference to get my daughter a job in the film industry because that’s what she wants to study in college.

The closer I get to retirement, the less willing I am to take risks with my employment. But after my daughter’s out of college and I’ve got my pension, I can start a different career..

My favorite parts of the book were reading about the quilt and Caroline’s upholstery ideas. I loved seeing the quilts readers made, but I wouldn’t make one myself. I’ve only made one quilt so I’m a beginner and prefer simpler designs.

Erin

I love the potato chip reference! I felt the same way about this book. It was entertaining nonetheless!

Brenda Marks

I’m with you on being intrigued by the upholstery designs. I’d like to see a mock up of those!

Caroline igloovert.blogspot.ca

I would have loved to see the watercolours she made to pitch her business…

Orangie

Yes, I’m with you! I was horrified by the lack of privacy and protection the researcher showed for the patients. It was necessary for the story, but it was sooooo far off of how that information would have been treated that I couldn’t get past it.

Nethwen

And the idea that no one, even in modern times, would even entertain the thought of the possibility that the prince would dally with a servant seems so naive and intentionally blind.

Chrissy Weeks chrissyweeks.com

I agree. I feel like it would have been a common thing. Or at least common enough to be believed. However putting her “away” for her situation did team realistic.

Jen

“potato-chip” book is a great term and I think totally fits this book. It was entertaining, but not what I would call literature. So many bits felt tacked on (the miscarriage…why? It seemed to have no impact on the story at all) or stilted (some of Maria’s interviews….) and the “twist” of Caroline being Maria’s granddaughter was telegraphed from almost the start. Still it was a bit of fun.

Sewing Sofie

1) I enjoyed the book though I agree with the previous comment that said the Maria dialogue seemed a bit less polished. I would have loved more historical details. I was not a big fan of Caroline but she grew on me. I found myself relating to her in terms of her career choices.
2) If I found out I may be descended from royalty I would try to discreetly claim my place. I would not keep it a secret but I also would not advertise it.
3) The topic of risk and security really made me think. Caroline started her risky but fulfilling business after she became unemployed. Although this is a difficult decision, it was made easier by the fact that she was unemployed. The more difficult decision would be to choose to quit your unfulfilling job to pursue a more fulfilling career. That requires a certain level of bravery not every one has. I personally struggle with this. I would love to one day quit my day job and have a sewing business. Maybe one day I will be brave enough to do it.
4) The quilt did not look at all like I pictured. I would not make a quilt since I am more interested in garment construction.
5) I have not read any other of Liz Trenow’s books but some sound interesting. I would be willing to check them out.

PsychicSewerKathleen psychicanada.com

I’ve almost finished the Forgotten Seamstress – I could have finished it yesterday but got caught up in doing the flat fell seams on my jean jacket :) I loved this book – and what struck me was how easily we slip into situations like she did at the palace – trusting, naive, in love, flattered we aim to please and how many women ended up in her situation? You didn’t necessarily have to sleep with a prince to find yourself “jailed” in an institution. Many men got rid of unwanted wives that way! It’s an inspiring feminist story (and that genre is my favourite!!) that showcases women’s strength girded by relationship and hope. I’ve taken many risks – gone into business for myself, married twice, moved around the country, traveled extensively alone…I never wanted to get to the end of my life wringing my hands over what I might have done, seen, experienced :)

Mary Earle-Sigler thedailysew.com

I thought the story in “The Forgotten Seamstress” was interesting but the execution lacking. I would have liked more details, more descriptions and less cliches. It seemed so “easy reader”. Was there any thing in the story you didn’t see coming a mile away? And yet, what potential this idea had.

I didn’t pick up on the theme of risk and security. In Caroline’s case the author made her transition from unemployed to independent interior designer seem so easy. There’s no money problems, she drew one sketch and her one contact loved it and, ta-da, it had serious interest. What a lucky gal to hit such a pay off with seemingly little work. Maria had a life changing consequence for her risk; a risk she didn’t give too much thought to other than “I knew I shouldn’t”. Here was a perfect place for the author to expand on what Maria was thinking. What she was feeling. How she weighed the risk she was about to take against her love/desire for the prince. Oh well.

I’m still glad to have read the book just to join this discussion and read something I wouldn’t have otherwise. And although the story just touches on textile conservation it send me off down rabbit holes learning more so I did get that out of the reading. I liked the story, I just wanted more quality in the writing.

Nethwen

“Interesting, but lacked execution”

Sums up exactly what I was trying to say.

Brenda Marks

I agree. The part that irritated me was “Margaret” visiting Maria in the institution, and suddenly disappearing. It seems like there could have been some interesting exploration of how they eventually reunited.

Ashley sewnbyashley.com

I felt like I knew what was going to happen from chapter one!! It really seemed like it could have been so much more. That said, this was the first time I’ve read anything with so many sewing references, so that was nice.

Erin

Ashley- I agree! I haven’t read a book with so many sewing references and I loved that about the book.

Ashley sewnbyashley.com

That was my favorite bit!! I somehow didn’t expect it to have so many, was super stoked to see that it did!

Jen

Completely agree – especially about Caroline’s hop, skip and jump into her independent business. As someone who works and lives with freelancers and the self-employed this was just too easy for her. I’ve never known anyone with that luck!

sugarduck

1) I really enjoyed reading The Forgotten Seamstress; it was one of those books that I picked up and couldn’t really put down until it was finished. Even though I had pretty much figured out where the story was going in the last third of the book, I still found Caroline’s final realization of the meaning behind the “grandmother’s fan” motif on the quilt to be quite touching.
I’ve been sewing garments for several years, but I only started quilting this past year and I really enjoyed reading some of the more technical passages concerning the quilt and the different techniques involved.
Reading Maria’s story made me want to learn more about the royal family and, in particular, the early years of King Edward VIII. It also made me wonder what the general rules are concerning works of fiction based on real-life figures. Are some figures considered “off limits”, or are authors allowed to invent whatever they want about someone as long as it’s clearly marked as fiction? This is an honest question; I’m curious as to whether or not there are “rules” concerning what can/can’t be written in a piece of historical fiction. I wonder if historical authors have ever run into problems from the descendants of the subjects of their novels.
Side note: The American book cover is so lovely, but the UK version (the one I have) is embarrassingly romance-novel-ish. When I saw it, I thought “Oh no, I’m not so sure about this book”. Of course, I know that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but I surely never would have picked this book up if it hadn’t been part of the book club, which is a shame.

2) Of course, it would depend of the circumstances, but if I found out that I had royal lineage, I think I would probably tell my close friends and family – as a sort of “Hey, whadd’ya know?!” kind of story. I wouldn’t want to widely publicize it or anything; I definitely wouldn’t sell my story to the media. I don’t think I would keep it a deep dark secret, though, unless I knew that the story would deeply hurt someone that I loved.

3) Taking risk is something that I struggle with; I tend to see the “what ifs?” in a negative light. I’m realizing, though, that my fear of risk is actually holding me back from going after my dreams. This is something that I’m really thinking a lot about at the moment.

4) The quilt doesn’t look like I imagined at all. I’m not really sure what I had imagined, exactly, but I think it was something a little finer – more subtle in its details. I had imagined a quilt that you really have to study before the story starts to reveal itself. The appliqué, in particular, is larger and more obvious that I had pictured in my mind.

5) I haven’t read Liz Trenow’s other book, but I might give it a try, based on how enjoyable “The Forgotten Seamstress” was. It might be a good one to add to my summer reading list.

I love the idea of reading along with other sewing fanatics from all over the world. I thoroughly enjoyed this first book and am looking forward to the next! ;-)

Sara

I love your side note – I too would not have even picked the book up in a library, based purely on the cover. Why the different covers I wonder?

Debra

To answer your question on historical fiction. Yes, there are “rules”. The fictional characters are living in an era or event that must be historically accurate. There are functional characters that are around an historical person. The historical character must be accurate, but the fictional has more freedom. The difference between a biography and a fictional biography is the conversations and thoughts. A biography can include only what is known and documented. Historical can have conversations and thoughts, the are not documented but are in keeping with the personality of the historical figure. The closer the author comes to portraying the historical the better the novel and more believable the story. In contrast a book written in the past about current times is not a historical novel, an example is Little Women.

Shona

Hello,

1. I really enjoyed the book, it was easy reading and I couldn’t put it down. I wasn’t sure I would like the format of the book with regards to each chapter being a different era but I think that Li Tretower did a good job of making each chapter flow into the next. I found the story very relatable and possibly more enjoyable for those reasons; the industry I work in is currently going through redundancies and I have been doing a lot of soul searching with regards to what would make me happy and also my gran has recently moved to a nursing home and is suffering from alzheimers.

2.Family trees are always interesting so it would be nice to know, however I don’t think I would do much about it, it would probably just be a novel fact I would mention to people if we were discussing history or something.

3. I am open to risk taking and am quite adventurous, if I was to take a life changing risk at the moment, I would quite my job and do something that makes me happy.

4.I agree with most of the comments above, I pictured that quilt to be more intricate and delicate. I have never made a quilt before but if I was to make one I probably would base it on all the loves of my life.

5.I have not read Liz Trenow’s other book, however will keep it in mind for future.

Janet diywardrobe.co.uk

Thanks for suggesting this book – I wouldn’t have picked it up otherwise and I did enjoy it – even if it was more page-turner than literary gem. It’s fascinating to see how people have interpreted the quilt. I think I’d definitely have been intimidated trying to fit the Prince’s breeches!

I liked the way the author threw Caroline and Maria’s lives into sharp contrast. Caroline’s life is a succession of choices and decision points, whereas Maria was so much at the mercy of others.

With no family, and only one friend in the world, Maria couldn’t choose whether or not to take the job at the Palace. In Edwardian Britain, I’m not sure she would have felt she could refuse a powerful man like the Prince without losing her job. When she found herself pregnant, she couldn’t opt for an abortion. And she couldn’t discharge herself from Helena Hall. There’s a long way to go to equality between the sexes and across the income divide, but even a woman with Maria’s background would have had at least some options in Caroline’s 21st century Britain.

I’m looking forward to the next book…

Kat

“In Edwardian Britain, I’m not sure she would have felt she could refuse a powerful man like the Prince without losing her job. When she found herself pregnant, she couldn’t opt for an abortion. And she couldn’t discharge herself from Helena Hall. There’s a long way to go to equality between the sexes and across the income divide, but even a woman with Maria’s background would have had at least some options in Caroline’s 21st century Britain.”

THANK YOU for pointing this out. It’s hard to imagine how few choices working class people and women had in this society, even after you’ve read a whole book about it. If Maria hadn’t been locked away, I’m not sure what would have happened to her. It was completely legal to refuse someone a job because they were a single mother.

Chrissy Weeks chrissyweeks.com

At one point Marie feared she would become a “street walker” I think realistically this is what would have happened to her had she left and kept the baby.

Pilar pilarbear.com

1/ I really enjoyed the book although we all agree it’s not a masterpiece of literature in terms of writing. I also found that was a bit predictable, except for a couple of things, the letter sewn into the quilt and the fact that Granny Jane had “adopted” Maria’s son. I found very touching how both Maria and Jane went through so much in their lives but what really sent them crazy was related to their motherly love towards their son.
I also really enjoyed how this tiny, anonymous person that Maria was, has such an amazing, if terrible, story behind her back and how no one believed her. It makes me think of all the stories that ordinary people have and that they’ll go lost just because no one bothered to ask. With this thought in mind, I got chatting to and old chap today when I was having a snack in a cafe and it turned out that we had more in common than I could have ever imagined.
I also liked how the London life is depicted on this book, because that’s pretty much it for many people. Stuck in an ok job for fear of not being able to pay the bills. I am just so glad I escaped the city…

2/ If I learnt I descended from royalty I would totally keep it a secret. To be honest, they may have all the fame and stuff, but I wouldn’t change my life for theirs in a million years. Definitely not a life I envy at all.

3/ I’m happy to say that I’ve already taken my risk! I quit my job in London and moved overseas. And then I had a baby. Motherhood has changed the way I say life and I’ve finally managed to gather the courage to follow my real passion and start up my own business. It definitely feels uncertain but for me it’d be much worse if 15 years down the line I’d ask myself, what if you had actually given it a go? I want to be able to answer that question.

4/ I checked the quilt design when I was halfway through the book and I also imagined it more elaborated. What I’d really love to see (and touch) are those royal silks, they just sound so utterly delicate and beautiful that have had my head spinning trying to imagine every pattern and every fibre of them. I’m not a quilter so probably won’t attempt to make it, but I did like the idea of the little embroidery characters spelling both David’s and Maria’s names. That’s something I’d like to make for my little baby boy.

5/ I haven’t read any other books by this author but I would give a go to her other book should I be in the mood for an easy read, maybe for the summer holidays?

Emily

Thank you for recommending this book – I don’t think I would ever have picked it up without this recommendation. However, I really enjoyed it. I found it a quick, pacey read, and the idea of following the clues in the quilt to unravel a whole series of mysteries was very appealing. It is interesting what others have said about the lack of choice in Maria’s life; the contrast between characters really shows how society has changed in the last hundred years. It also made me glad I have kept so many heirlooms from my grandparents – I love the way the book explored the heirloom quilt as a connection between generations.

I would love to read a book about a character who did discover they were descended from royalty and decided to claim their place. I’ve recently enjoyed ”The Royal We’ about a character who moves from being a commoner into the Royal Family, and I love the perspective on life in the royal family that book explored.

I’d love to explore quilt making with the level of symbolism in the book; my friend is moving away in the summer and I’m planning a quilt full of symbols for her leaving present (was it inspired by this book? Maybe unconsciously)! However, in no way will it have the skilful shapes and design of Maria’s quilt. Will probably be mostly simple squares and rectangles with symbolic fabric choices!

Finally, I’d definitely read another Liz Trenow book as a summer holiday read…especially one also related to sewing. My next will probably be the next blog choice for this reading group though!

Kat

Your quilt sounds like a beautiful leaving-town present, and a very engaging art project.

Rebekah

Where are the images of the quilts? I was imagining something busy, almost gaudy. I read it on my kindle and now I’m wondering if I missed something?

Rebekah

Yikes! Never mind. I see the links in the questions now.

Ashley sewnbyashley.com

1. I really enjoyed all the sewing references. I felt like it was a bit predictable, I figured out so much in the very beginning. Maria’s story was really touching, and of course, historical references are always a favorite of mine.

2. Oh that’s a hard one!! I think I would probably tell people close to me, but I would hate for the world to know. Privacy is far too valuable.

3. I’m not one for taking risks!!! If I was to take one…I suppose it would be moving. I’ve lived in the same state my entire life, so living in a new city/country could be so refreshing.

4. It was really, really cool to see the quilt. I am no quilter, I would muck it up beyond belief!

5. I haven’t read it, and I’m not sure if I would? The references would be really cool to read,, but I’m not sure if it’s quite my style.

Rebekah

This was a fun read. I love to read sewing related books and it’s even better to find other people to discuss them with! I found Maria’s story very engaging and i felt the author was a little more authentic with her. Caroline’s story was a little self-pitying to me and the author took so many shortcuts with her. Having the whole history of the quilt handed to her in the audio tapes and having a miscarriage on the eve of an abortion (for the record I’m NOT implying that miscarriages are easy, but it felt like an easy way out for the author not to make her make any real decisions. Whereas Maria has to face the consequences of her actions every day of her life, Caroline never had to).

I think I was the most impacted by the mom though. Her dementia felt very real and heartbreaking. I would read another of the author’s books but I would get it from the library instead of buying it (I got impatient and wasn’t able to get it for a while so I just bought it).

Susan

In this story I was most taken by the part played by the quilt in connecting one generation to another — IF the later generation is willing to look beyond the prettiness of the quilt and consider the life circumstances and motivation of the maker. Something created at another time and place may hold quite a different meaning than that which we give it in contemporary times. I was also thoroughly sympathetic and horrified by the whole thread of the story showing the power held by those who deem us mentally ill. While we might argue with the way the author told the story of love between commoner and royalty, I for one can totally imagine that happening and can imagine an insane asylum being used as a place to keep the offending commoner.about . We need to look more deeply into the stories of women placed in such asylums — I suspect that many had no mental health issues at all, but were thorns in the side of their families/societies. She was a strong young woman who knew her own mind and suffered for it.

Robin

I enjoyed the book for all it attempted, and less so for literary merit. It was very predictable and a bit too chick lit (forgive me) for my tastes, but so ambitious and delightful that I am glad it was chosen, as I would not have picked it up on my own. I enjoyed the realism re Caroline’s life and choices. I agree with the assessment of others that Maria would have been hard pressed to deny a prince, and would have likely felt very coerced. The author did a great job sharing the desires of others particularly in the present day.

I would pursue my royal heritage, although privately and tactfully. There is the risk that my efforts would bring some disbelief, even with the proof, however, I think it would be best in the interest of revealing actual historical and for the record.

I took a risk in my job by being honest. It resulted in some good changes for me, but then I was laid off, and even though on one hand I strongly believe there was no connection, there is still doubt in my mind. I have taken risks in the past that worked out very well, but as I get older, I would like more security. Moving to another country would be a risk I would like to take, but honestly at this point I am so happy with my life, I just can’t be bothered. I have had great careers, lived in Honolulu many years (that was a risk), and travelled the world, so staying home to sew and read is a pleasure.

I have no desire to quilt, and the designs did not match up with my imagination at all, but that’s ok. I would read another book by this author, but with different expectations, because I now know pretty much what kind of read it will be.

Jaimee etsy.com

1. I enjoyed the book. It read quick and had a little bit of everything- royalty, romance, mystery. At first, I thought the miscarriage plot was too much, but that’s the way life happens. Sometimes you can’t imagine one more bad thing happening, then 10 more terrible things happen.

2. In today’s world with news in a minute, constant commenting through social media and paparazzi- I would never reveal the secret. The upsides of royalty pale in comparison to a private life for me.

3. Going back to school for fabric design.

4. The quilt design was nothing like I imagined. Maybe I glossed over the description, but I thought it had a lot more navy blue and gold and was more patchworky vs. symmetrical. Like each square be very different from one another. Seeing the design was a little disappointing.

5. I’d definitely read another one of her books. Good quick read!

Heather Dawson rainydayparent.blogspot.ca

I read the book in a day while on a (luxury for a mom of a toddler) business trip via train. It was an entertaining read, and didn’t push me into any depth full literary analysis. I did like the themes of risk, decisions and forfeited control. (The literary reason for the biological clock/pregnancy/miscarriage was clearly to allow Caroline to sympathize with her foremothers…)

I’m quite sure I would keep mum on my royal link, let them find me if they need me.

I am not a huge risk taker, but when my kids have grown I’ll probably take a lifestyle leap.

This was my first quilting themed book, and when I finished it I immediately recommended it to my quilter aunt. I may pursue the silk road book (s) . I loved the easy flow of this novel.

Caroline igloovert.blogspot.ca

1) I really liked it. I couldn’t put it down and it made me cry a few times like at the injustice Maria faced, at Caroline’s lost sense of purpose when she lost her job and hopelessness when she lost her baby, her house, her mother as she knew her… It is a sad thing that from generations to generations, the men didn’t suffer any consequence from an unwanted (or even unknown) pregnancy…

Also, I felt a connection with Caroline : I lost my grand-mother when I was young and there is so much I would have like to know about their life raising 8 kids on a dairy farm. I also inherited a quilt from her, not the sumptuous kind but with a lot of history. It is just big ruff squares pieced together and the layers are quilted together with hand knots. But some pieces of fabric was from my father’s clothing ; a pair of jeans, a wool coat, etc… I would have love to know more about it… It is very hard for me to get the family history on my father’s side because my father died when I was a teenager. But I still have some videos of them, but no answers for more grown up questions I had later on in life…

I also feel lost in my life now like Caroline ; I decide to stay at home 7 years ago to care for my children and I just finished a master degree that took me years to study for part time ; but I am unsure what I want to do next! I sometimes feel like the answer should be obvious, but it is just out of my grasp now. Reading the book, I saw it as obvious that she should keep her home, sell her flat, take care of her mother… But when you are in indecision and turmoil, it is so hard to see it.

Finally, I really like “Downton Abby” and “El Gran Hotel” and I liked to be in the same atmosphere with Maria recollection of the life at the palace. I think it helped me understand Maria’s life better based on the knowledge from those shows than from the narration of the book.

2) I would tell the ones closest to me, but I wouldn’t claim any benefits from it. I wouldn’t want to loose my life as Maria did or any other way…

3) If you took a risk, what would it be? That is exactly what I am trying to figure out now! Should I go back to an engineering job, well paid but no time for my kids (one has trouble learning to read) with money to travel but no time to do so? Or part time job? Or just concentrate on my kids for now since we can afford it?

4) The quilt made by others is not has I imagined it. Mine was more colourful, but also softer, like made in watercolours! It is always prettier in my mind ;) I don’t think I would take on a big project like that and I prefer modern quilts.

5) I haven’t but I plan on reading them… Thanks! :D

Pilar pilarbear.com

Caroline, I wanted to thank you for such an honest answer. If it’s not being too curious, may I ask what subject did you study for your masters?
I totally see how you can’t make up your mind. I think you were very brave to make the choice of staying at home to bring up your kids, and also very lucky because not many people can do it these days. Also, many times I get the feeling that people judge mums that stay at home, and sometimes just asume they’ve got not qualifications and therefore don’t work, but in fact, that’s rarely the case. It is just a choice, as any other, and it has nothing to do with your education level.
I had a baby almost 6 months ago and I’ve been home ever since. As much as I tried, I never came close to imagine the overwhelming feeling of becoming a mum, and now I just want to spend every second with my baby, making him happy and discovering the world with him again. Having said that, I am still having trouble accepting that that’s what I want and that my family is first (and because I’m lucky that I’m in a position to make that choice).
I watched a film a few years back about a very successful broker. I really don’t remember much of it but a line got stuck to my mind. When he was asked what was the best investment he had ever done, he replies saying: “The best investment is spending time with you family and making sure they are happy.”
Whatever you decide to do next, I wish you the very best!

Caroline igloovert.blogspot.ca

Hi Pilar,

I am a computer engineer, I have been a programmer for 7 years and I wanted to design better user interfaces so my master is in Cognitive Ergonomics. So now I focus more on the users, their tasks and goals. It is something I always had an interest in ; I never cared much about which new tech we were using, but more about what’s the gain from the user perspective! ;)

Yes, I find it hard at party and I come to dread the question : “So, what do YOU do?” I feel like most don’t think it can be challenging to raise kids, study part time and I even worked part time for some years…Some finds it crazy that I left a good paying career, some just assume I stay at home because I cannot do anything else…

What sadden me most is that for something to be recognized, you have to be paid for ; so none of my raising the kids, teaching how to read, sewing projects, volunteering in the school seems to count as being me nor a valid life choice for some people…

But I also know I am terribly lucky that in Quebec, we have 1 year paid maternity leave (about 60% of your salary) and then my husband made some nice move up the salary ladder so we can afford it.

I am glad you are happy with your choice! It can also become very lonely without lunches with coworkers and grown up talks! But volunteering at school helped me with that! :D

Deb

I stayed home for 13 years with my children (homeschooled for five of those years) and I don’t regret it for one minute. I had all of the same confusing thoughts as you about returning to the work force, is what I’m doing worthwhile, and how do I maintain my dignity when my society (US) hold full-time homemakers in so little regard.

My youngest is finishing college this year and I just completed my master’s in library and information science in December 2015 (started three years ago when I was 51). Anyway, returning to the paid job market is not easy and you’re right, Caroline, all of the many volunteer things you do count for less than they should on your resume. But they do count!

Hold your head high, enjoy your family, keep sewing, take risks, and have faith that it will all work out in the end. I just started a permanent job last September as a librarian in my home town and I love it. Your career will wait for you. :)

Caroline igloovert.blogspot.ca

Thank you! :D

Veronika

It was a very easy read. I enjoyed it although I found it predictable. It is the first story I have read where a textile piece plays a central role in the story.
I would just ignore the fact if I had any links to royalty. I grew up in the far north of Australia and I knew at least one member of royalty living there. I don’t think you would have much of a say as to whether or not any claims would come to light or even be accepted – the politics of lineage and inheritance are dark and dirty as this novel illustrates.

Sara

I haven’t yet finished the book, but I will even though I now get the gist of what happened in the end.
So far I am enjoying it, but feel a bit saddened, by how easy it was for people to be admitted to mental health institutions, even at that time, and particularly women. The lack of power or control over one’s life. I often say in life that generally, we are the choices we make – but of course this is not always so. Watching the move The Suffragettes recently also reinforced this for me.
I do recall when I had a short stint working in mental health that people who had been institutionalised all their lives for seemingly ridiculous reasons were living in community houses run by the health department (15 years ago), but they too were closing for people to integrate into the community. What a waste of lifetimes. Just so sad.
The other ‘thread’ I have been thinking about is the talent of children with sewing at that time. I often wonder if we have ‘dumbed down’ a little over the ages – and why? That is a terrible shame.
The story is very readable, but having said that I think it is full of layers of concepts and stories, and so I shall enjoy it to the end.
I have put a hold ion The Last Telegram at the library, and will read it.
I am not really a risk taker. I am not sure what risk I would take. I would love to risk giving up work – there is so much I would like to do in my time. But can I live of not very much (which is not that much less that at present, but enough to make me question it). Plus I am not happy the way the workforce is heading, being so regulated and paperwork plus!! Sometimes I think we lose sight of people, for the paperwork, but that is another story.
As for the quilt, beautful I am sure, but I have to prioritise what sewing I can achieve in my spare time, and it would not be high on my list. In fact, probably wouldn’t make the list.

Penelope

1) What did you think of the book?
I was really glad to be a part of this on-line book club so I kept going with the relatively lightweight romantic style even though it is not something I would normally choose. It paid off for me. The story was more engaging than I had expected and the soft focus less cloying. I found myself galloping through it waiting for the mystery to resolve itself. I found the psychiatric institution particularly well handled. It rang true to me given the knowledge in this area from my work days. And the quilt details were fascinating. Liz Trenow had really done her homework. Moreover, I read the sewing story with, in the back of my mind, the sense that I was reading along with many other Collette fans who love sewing and enjoy her eclectic approach to it. It pleases that the next book for the club is quite different. Next time around it is one I have been planning to read anyway. I wonder if it will be as unexpectedly enjoyable as this little book has been.
2) If you found out that you might be descended from royalty, how would you react?
I think I would be disinclined to make a connection to these people who do not know me (or want to) and who are not likely to be comfortable for me to be with given our massively different backgrounds. I would be aware of the potentially negative implications for all my own descendents if I opened this Pandora’s box. Would they be inundated with invites to be on low grade reality TV shows hungry for quasi celebrities? Tee hee 
3) This book deals with risk and security.
I like taking risks. I have moved family and job through several non-English speaking countries with no mishap to my profound personal and professional satisfaction. Even after retiring I sold up my home and went walkabout for 5 years mostly in the Australian Outback. I am on to another adventure now. My maxim has always been “I won’t die wondering”. I applaud Collette’s risk in setting up her fascinating business. I guess the sewing part was probably the easiest learning curve she had (has) to traverse.
4) Would you like to make a quilt based on this book?
I really enjoyed the research element that had gone into this quilt in the back notes section but I would not choose to make one. It is attractive but not the kind of sewing I do. If someone would like to make me one as a birthday present I know I would love it…… LOL
5) Have you read Liz Trenow’s other book about silk?
I haven’t read any other Liz Trenow. I probably won’t. I might recommend her to some of my sewing friends who tend to read this type of book. It is very good of its kind.

Ahrabella

I enjoyed the Forgotten Seamstress a great deal with it ‘s weaving of the past and current day . The characters were well drawn and in particular Maria was seemed to come alive during the course of the book . The descriptions about the sewing and the making of the quilt were interesting and I wanted to find out more – a diagram or illustration of the quilt would have been helpful.At times the pace of the book was a little slow but the descriptions of London and other parts of England were very good. The supposed connection with the Royal family was a bit implausible but did give food for thought .Though it is known that women who were deemed to be an embarrassment to society were locked away in institutions so they were silenced and dismissed as sane individuals . It is shocking to think this practice continued well into the 20th century.
I look forward to reading Liz Trenow Last Telegram and of course the next Colette book club choice for this month .

Trisha

1. I read this book last year, and what really struck me about it was how a woman of great talent, like Maria, lost everything because of society’s rules about women in the era she lived. I was horrified for her when she got pregnant, because that alone was career ending if it couldn’t be covered up. When she went to the asylum, I was appalled. Those places were cruel, and if you weren’t crazy when you went in (and many women weren’t) the conditions could wreak havoc on your psyche enough you might be after some time there. It was shockingly easy to have a woman committed then. You just needed a man with an interest in getting you out of his way, and bingo, you’re in. And it was near impossible to get out.
But I was glad when her story was unravelled, and her quilt surrendered it’s mysteries. Though I was again appalled at what happened to the quilt. In my head, behind the scenes, there’s a very dedicated conservationist working to save it as we speak! Such a treasure could not be left in that state. : )
2. I am descended from royalty, or at least, aristocrats. I have Medieval Norman connections. It’s not particularly useful, but fun to imagine what their lives were like. Did they wear silks? Write poetry, commission artwork, live in a castle? What did they love, eat, think about?
3. I loved how both Caroline and Maria were big risk takers, in their own ways: Maria by working in such a high position, then engaging in a love affair with a prince, Caroline by losing her job, then jumping into self-employment. Sometimes life leaves you no other option but to jump off the cliff into what scares you. In the end, both ladies triumph over adversity, in very different ways, and not unscathed, but they discover something wonderful at the end of their journeys.
I am something of a daredevil, once in a while. I majored in art in college, which most people consider a very risky choice, but I’ve made it work so far. I love to try new things; there is a risk I will fail, but I just don’t think about it much. It’s more important to DO. The attitude about the risk is what matters. : )
4. I am not a quilter, but I appreciate it as an art form. I think it’s marvelous that someone would recreate a quilt from a story that moved them. There is space for embroidery in the tiniest of squares! Imagine doing it by hand, like our great grandmothers did! Sometimes, I have quilt envy.
5.I hope you all read The Last Telegram. I loved it even more than The Forgotten Seamstress; if I may say so, I felt it was a more polished novel, and well researched. I was enchanted by the silk, and found it hard to put down. The theme of women finding their strength in adversity is more thoroughly explored, as well, and I was very intrigued by the main character and her choices as she grows into a woman.

Simone fraumuellermachtsachen.wordpress.com

1)
I was happy that the book was so easy to read. I’m German-speaking and I could read it without dictionary, I had some difficulties, but I could understand the meaning of most words out of the context.
I found it interesting to see what role the economic and social background played for the women.
Without family and without money Maria was so unprotected and at mercy of so many people.
Caroline on the other side could make her own decisions. Losing a job where you earn a lot of money and getting a job with less money was not really a question of living or dying for her.
2)
If I would dance around the fire like Rumpelstiltskin – but WITHOUT singing my real name :-)

Simone

Susan

1) I liked the premise of the book but I felt that it was undeveloped and that some parts were not believable. As a former academic, I had trouble believing that Caroline would be given access to the research notes, given regulations about human subjects and privacy. But overall I enjoyed the story and I loved the role of sewing and textiles. My grandmother and her sisters grew up doing sewing and needlework and by the time they were adults they were masters. I thought of them a lot as I read.

The side story of Caroline and her mom hit home for me, as my mom was in the hospital waiting for a spot in a nursing home while I was reading the book. She was moved yesterday, and now I am getting ready to sell her house. The whole experience is heartbreaking.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the different types of institutional care. I recently read Grace Williams Says It Loud, about a woman who is put in a mental institution as a young girl because of seizures and other health problems. It’s scary to think about how many people were placed in care inappropriately and how much has been lost as a result. At the same time, I work with homeless people and know that there are many, many people living in dire circumstances because they really need some kind of long-term residential care for mental health issues; institutions have been closed, but haven’t been replaced with effective alternatives. And recently I’ve been spending so much time looking at different seniors’ homes where, despite the best of intentions, life becomes institutional. I believe that as a society we need to find better ways to take care of people who need help.

2) If the circumstances were similar to those in the book, I’d keep it secret because I think it would be difficult to prove and the ordeal wouldn’t be worth it.

3) I agree with earlier comments that Maria didn’t have much choice in what happened to her, so she wasn’t really _choosing_ to take a risk. Caroline could have looked for another job, but did take risks in her career and relationships. As a self-employed person, I do think things worked out too easily for her and this part of the story could have been developed more.

I took a risk by working freelance to have flexibility for my kids and my mom. Now that my youngest is finishing high school and my mom is no longer in her house, I face the question of where to go from here. Should I build my business into a full-time job or pursue something else?

4) The quilt didn’t look much like I had imagined. I wouldn’t make this particular quilt, but I love the idea of making a quilt that contains fabric and symbols from your life.

5) I haven’t read Liz Trenow’s other books, but I probably will in the future.

Maria

I really liked this book, especially since I rarely read novels anymore- although a more upbeat novel probably would have been better for my winter state of mind! It kept my interest, so much so that I read it in a weekend.
If I were descended from royalty, would I tell anyone? Perhaps, although it wouldn’t be any more useful than stating that I’m of Italian descent. Unless I’m living a “royal” life already, I can’t see the difference it would make. I’m certainly not up for claiming a spot on the royalty ladder, don’t go to fancy restaurants so wouldn’t need to lay claim for better seating, and generally would find it more of a curiosity than anything else. The I’m,y exception would be if there were some hereditary illness or disability that I would need to trace.
Life is one big risk. I’m a single adoptive parent who traveled to China to become a parent. I changed careers from banking to teaching, earning a bachelors at age 47 and masters at 52 (in 18 months) while raising my daughter and , for the masters, working full time. I don’t think you can really live without taking risks. Some risks are just better thought out.
As there are several different versions of the quilt, I can’t really say it’s as I imagined- although it’s interesting to see how others imagine, then created, their versions. The few quilts I have made were of my own design.
I might be interested in the author’s other books, if I could find the time to read them. Using my precious time over the weekend is costly.

Mary Stein

I enjoyed listening to the Audible rendition – while starting my first Alabama Chanin project. The best part of the book was how the layers of the story unfolded and became a full circle of the relationship of the characters. The value of the characters wasn’t so much a relation to royalty in my opinion as how much they affected each other. Any claim to a family of royalty or power on that level would be a fool’s journey. In this time of history and in our society we have been blessed with the ability to take risks and walk an unknown path. I have lived all over the US and travelled in other parts of the world. Feeling the spirit of freedom we enjoy as a result of others determined lives is something I don’t take for granted. We don’t have to make huge leaps of faith in taking risks in life, but we all should strive to at least stretch ourselves, learn and not leave a list of regrets at the end of our life. I am launching another phase of my life after closing up a retail shop and interior design business (however my “launches” are slower than they used to be). I do love reading about seamstresses and seem to have been guided to reading quite a few. Kat – if we have some recommendations, can we email them to you?

Kat

Absolutely! Send any suggestions to Kat@prettyscavenger.com

Donna

I haven’t read the book (yet), but wanted to comment on the photo. Something I noticed almost right away was the tape (for the spine label). Could this be a subtle sign of support for America’s public libraries? Then I saw you are a librarian…
(So am I.)

Kat

Haha, yes. I tried to angle the book so it was a bit more subtle, but you spotted it! I’m lucky enough to live near a big urban library so I’ve been able to do most of my research for the book club with library books. When I buy books, they’re usually ebooks and just don’t look as nice as print, even with a library sticker.

knitmo

1) I really enjoyed the book. Based on the cover I probably wouldn’t have picked it up to read. I read this as an e-book. I enjoyed the tape recordings — that was a great way to share Maria’s story and have her be a reliable narrator (potential mental health issue aside). I did not like the present day story — it felt forced to me, and a little too formulaic, as well. I really appreciated that not everything was wrapped into a tidy little bow at the end. So often authors feel like they need to tie everything into a nice little bow.

I think the big take a way for me, was the difference in class structure and how mental health issue was a dumping grounds to dispose of “problematic” people/situation — and the extreme disservice it did for those who truly had mental health issues. On the other hand, I was horrified at the lack of documentation of babies born/given up for adoption.

2) If you found out that you might be descended from royalty, how would you react? It would be a bit of a shock to find out there might be some connection to royal blood. I probably would not try to claim anything. It would become one of the pieces of the family folklore. But in reality, I am a private person and I would not want to “out” myself and draw attention to me and my family.

3) If you took a risk, what would it be?
I’m a grant writer, so my work is very much risk oriented — You’re considered an excellent granter if you have a 50 percent success rate (aka fail half of the work you do). I’m not a super risk oriented person and I’ve never been in a position where I’ve truly felt a need to take a risk.

4) You can see a pattern for Maria’s quilt and different versions that people have made on Liz Trenow’s website. Did it look the way you imagined? Would you like to make a quilt based on this book? It was far more organized and geometric. At first I was thinking it was a crazy quilt with the random scraps and lots of embroidery. Later in the book, there was an actual design with the different fabrics. Based on the book, I decided to take a quilting class. I have discovered I am NOT a quilter so the thought of making a quilt based on the one in the book is really distasteful. As I’ve worked on my quilt for my class, I’ve realized I could have made a dress (or two or more!) with the amount of time its taking.

5) I’ve never read a book by Liz Trenow, but after reading this, I’ve discovered all of her books has some interesting tie to the fiber arts — because it’s what she knows from her own background. Her other books are now on my to read list.

Suzanne

1) I liked it. It was a good easy read while lolling over the holidays. I was not surprised on what happened to Maria – many a young girl has been seduced into thinking that there is a future (of sorts) when a far more powerful male figure is attracted to them. Maria also wasn’t very well educated and might have only had a hazy idea of how babies were really made. We have to think about the time in which it was set when women had very little power over their lives either personally or professionally.

2) The UK Royal family isn’t a family I would wish to be associated with. They have their position by birth, not by talent or their own endeavors. I regularly visit family now living in the UK and can state the class system is still alive and well in that country and am amazed that non-aristocratic people are still paying homage to the ‘upper classes’ .

3) I have taken risks in my life but only after a careful assessment of the long-term consequences. I have never been the sort to risk it all and damn the future.

4) I haven’t looked at the quilts yet and may not given the previous comments as I have a lovely picture in my mind’s eye and think I would like to keep it.

5) I haven’t read The Last Telegram but will do so as my library has a copy.

Thank you Kat for suggesting this book and I look forward to the next one.

Sue

I loved the book. Once I got past the two stories, I had a hard time putting it down. I would love to make the quilt, even downloaded the pattern. Can’t wait to see what the next book is.

Deborah

Oh dear, I’m afraid I’m about to become the odd duck of the crowd. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It made me happy and provided a welcome escape. Fiction, a hero’s journey, historical details, readability, and SEWING! What’s not to love? All of the literary criticisms above are quite accurate, and surely justified, but in my opinion, a little harsh. I felt the author led us on a wonderful journey of “what if…” I enjoyed coming to know her characters through their narratives, and was not overly bothered by her plot devices. The plot was somewhat incredible, but wasn’t that the point? Maria’s story itself was incredible. The incredulity of the overall plot paralleled the incredulity of Maria’s story. As for the palace scenes? Bravo, Ms. Trenow for being brave enough to take on such an enigmatic historical character.

I found the writing lovely and beautifully descriptive. I am fascinated by the concept of the quilt as a form of language; symbolic ideograms with hidden meanings that can cross space and time. Why not hide a letter in a quilt? I think I shall start hiding poems in the linings of the garments I sew. I am reminded of my younger self commenting snidely that Hester Prynne would surely have just up and moved if she had any sense, and my teacher replying, “But then we wouldn’t have had the story, would we?” So bring on Rochester’s mad wife, Holmes’ deductions, hidden royal connections; let our ability to imagine and move between what is and what might be grow. That is the joy of fictional narrative as opposed to historical expository. The story is the thing.
Oh, and I would totally follow out any royal connections I might have. What a fun journey that would be. Not for money or fame, neither of which would be overly likely, but rather for knowledge of the past and the richness of the world’s genetic soup. So does that make me a risk taker?

Deb

I totally agree. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and will recommend it for the book discussion group I lead at the library I work at (another librarian :). The only thing I found to be just the tiniest bit of a stretch was Maria’s naive belief that the prince and she would live happily ever after. Given how strong class barriers were, especially back then, I would have expected her to be have just a few more misgivings about their future. But I found it to be a delightful escape!

Ingrid Tiffe isatesdesigns.com

This was a light enjoyable read. Plan on passing it on to my mother (she is a big fan of similar literature and shows). Wouldn’t have normally read this book as I found it predictable, but I am glad I did, mostly because of the sewing references. I am a sucker for fiction books which are written with lots of sewing references. It is what I refer to as a beach read.
I found it interesting to read about Liz Trenow’s family background, you can see her love of fibers in her writing.

Lia Bell accidentallyrural.com

Let’s start with what I didn’t like! The ending (as cliché as it is for me to say that)! Why would you stop right there, Ms. Trenow?! Why?! In all honesty, though it was the perfect ending. Tight enough, with enough of a resolution, to prevent a sequel — but still ambiguous and open-ended enough to make it incredibly difficult to let go of the book even though it’s over. It’s the sort of book you want to re-read immediately because you’re not yet ready to move on. It’s been over a week since I finished it and it’s still haunting me.

The best part of the book was the way the text draws you into its own little world. The plot is engrossing. The tale of Maria and this fantastic quilt really take center stage. I also liked that, for a general fiction book aimed at women, it was surprisingly free of romance. Not to say there was none, but it shadows and parallels other plot points so well that it doesn’t intrude (and it certainly doesn’t take over)! I found that to be incredibly refreshing!

ON ROYAL CONNECTIONS:
It depends on where my life was at, I think. Right now? I’d go for it! I wouldn’t interested in the inheritance (really just the acknowledgement and some of the perks like travel and further schooling — not to mention all of the neat history that you’d suddenly be privy too). The media attention might get to be a bit much, but I’m not nearly so interesting or together as Kate Middleton, so it’d probably drop off eventually!
In Caroline’s situation, where all the pieces of her life are just coming together, I’d keep quiet though! Everything would be too precarious!

ON RISKS:
I would love to quit my job and make a living off of the blog I just started (accidentally)! The idea of being able to work from anywhere really appeals to me! I’m only three posts in, so I’ve got a long way to go, though!

ON QUILTS:
The quilts people are making are gorgeous! I couldn’t imagine making that quilt by hand (which is how I’d want to do it if I was ever brave enough!). I couldn’t quite picture the M pieces, so it was great to have a visual to go along with it!

Bethany sew-not-perfect.blogspot.com

1) What did you think of the book?
The Forgotten Seamstress reminded me of a Hallmark movie. It was pleasant enough to read, although I found it almost entirely predictable and underdeveloped. I rarely read contemporary fiction, and this book fit pretty well within my reasons for avoiding it (predictable, mild character development, modern romance). However, the book was great in the same ways a flimsy movie can be great – it was fun to spend time with the characters and escape into a story that was interesting enough to keep me reading despite the mediocre literary value. I found the chapters telling Maria’s story the most interesting, wondered if the author had ever experienced a miscarriage because it seemed oddly done, and identified with the way Caroline suddenly became discontent with her flat decor after having been so in love with it. I can relate to the way events and experiences can suddenly and rapidly change our perspective and preferences. I also enjoyed the sewing and stitching references in the book. Although I found the book highly predictable, I was surprised by the letters inside the quilt, but incredulous as to how they could have survived decades of wear. I would imagine the ink alone, if not the paper, would have faded and perhaps washed away. However, I found the part of the story where they pieced those letter together the part I would have most wanted to be part of!

2) If you found out that you might be descended from royalty, how would you react? Would you try to claim your place or would you keep it a secret?
I think I would take a similar view as Caroline did. I would be interested in knowing as much as I could about the people and circumstances involved, but I don’t know that the effort to claim a place would have an benefit.

3) This book deals with risk and security. Maria knows that she’s risking her job when she has an affair with a man she can never marry—but she ends up losing much more than that. When Caroline loses her steady banking job, she starts a risky but fulfilling career as an interior designer. If you took a risk, what would it be?
I have no good answer for this. In hindsight, I can see risks I’ve taken in life – where to attend school, jobs, house to buy, etc, and I can see how decisions I’ve made have shaped the person I’ve become. I guess future risks will continue to be decisions I make without fully knowing the results they will bring as each time comes.

4) You can see a pattern for Maria’s quilt and different versions that people have made on Liz Trenow’s website. Did it look the way you imagined? Would you like to make a quilt based on this book?
I looked up these links to the quilt examples immediately upon finishing the book (which I read on Kindle) because I had a difficult time picturing the quilt design. In my mind it looked less cohesive and very dark – not as bright as some of the interpretations. I am a very new quilter, but I have decided to take the idea of the memorial quilt as the concept behind a small improvisational quilt I am working on this month as part of the Mighty Lucky Quilting Club monthly challenge. So, the quilt will look nothing like the book’s, but the fact that the improv quilt will represent a significant aspect of my life that I want to commemorate will be related to the book.

5) Have you read Liz Trenow’s other book about silk, The Last Telegram? Would you recommend it? By the way, if you like Liz Trenow, there’s good news: she’s writing another novel about the silk trade, and it comes out in 2017.
I have not read it. Not sure if I will look or it or not. If I were taking a trip or needing a quick and light read, I might consider it.

Mady thewardrobe-project.blogspot.gr

1) I really enjoyed this book. An easy read, well-written, with a little bit of everything in.
2) I would keep it a secret. I’m not really a big fan of royalty, and I enjoy my life as it is, without having to worry about protocolσ and restrictions.
3) Probably leaving my current job and go after my fashion design passion.
4) Since I’m not a quilter I couldn’t quite imagine the shape of the quilt in the book. Whilst reading I was imagining a colorful collage of beautiful silks. I enjoyed seeing what other readers made, but I don’t think I have the patience to make a quilt.
5) I haven’t read any other books from Liz Trenow, but I’ d really like reading more of her books,

Molly mygrandmotherslegacy.com

1. I loved the book! It was a fun read with a great story.
2. I would probably keep it a secret. It would not mean much to me other than family history
3. If I took a risk, it would be to start another business (sewing business, no less – making children’s clothes). I am working on it now!
4. I really had a hard time envisioning the quilt as it was described in the book. I am not really a quilter, and I am a very visual learner. So, the pictures were great to see. I imagined it a bit more colorful and vibrant than the examples, but the examples were amazing to see. Looks like a lot of work!
5. I have not read her other books, but I want to, especially the one (first one) based on her family’s silk mill business. Sounds great!

MaryAnn

1. I enjoyed the book, especially the parts describing the making of the quilt and the process used to authenticate the materials. Maria’s story was heartbreaking, but not surprising considering the time period.
2. I think the whole concept of royalty is foolishness, and I especially wouldn’t want to be related to anyone as despicable as Edward VIII, but I would be interested in knowing about mt blood relatives. Luckily, in this case, I could do that without ever meeting them.
3. My current situation does not require anything as drastic as a move or a new career, both of which I have done. I would like to try an activity I haven’t done before, such as sky diving.
4. The don’t quilt, so my thoughts on Maria’s quilt were not well formed. I enjoyed looking at the ones in the links,although I think lighter colors would be more what Maria would have done.
5. i have not read the other book, but I think I will now.

Kristi delightfullykristi.com

This “book club” is so much fun!!

1. I enjoyed the book, but I agree that it had some holes and could have been a little better developed / edited (seems to be the popular opinion here, anyway). I did like the two story lines and seeing them come together, and I was also horrified when the quilt was stolen and then rediscovered in such terrible shape (still makes me cringe). I also really liked the resolution, but I’m definitely the type of reader who prefers everything tied up in a pretty bow at the end ;)

2. As far as being descended from royalty, I don’t really know. We don’t have any royalty here in the States so it’s hard to even imagine, but while I don’t think I’d go “public” with the information, I don’t think I’d keep it secret either (from close friends / family)…

3. I have actually been thinking a lot about risk taking lately, as I haven’t had to take many risks in my life and I’m not much of a risk taker in general (unless you count adrenaline seeking, which I am!), but I am reaching a point in my (non-)career where I will need to take a risk one way or another to move forward. Not to be cryptic haha! Basically, I have several part-time jobs, and I’m struggling to make the leap to a full time position. I was actually very inspired by Caroline’s professional journey, because what I’d really like to do is make the transition to sewing full-time, but I don’t know the first thing about starting/running my own business and, honestly, I’m terrified of the risk!!

4. The quilt was pretty close to what I imagined, especially the first “fan” quilt, that is pretty much what I imagined. It’s a beautiful quilt, but not really my style, so I don’t think I would try to replicate this design personally.

5. I haven’t read any of Liz Trenow’s other books, but I would definitely consider it!

Thanks so much for hosting this fun Book Club! I can’t wait for the next one!! :)

Lynda

I can’t find what the next book is, is this only available at FB? tia :)

Lynda

oops I found the next book, thanks google :)

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