Review: The Forgotten Seamstress by Liz Trenow

Pub Date: May 6, 2014 | Paperback, Ebook
Acquired by: NetGalley/Sourcebooks

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Genre: Historical Fiction

London, 1910: Maria, a remarkable young seamstress, is noticed by Queen Mary, patron of the London Needlework Guild, who gives her a job in the royal household. A century later, when turning out her mother’s loft, Caroline discovers an old patchwork quilt left to her by her grandmother, and becomes intrigued by the curious verse embroidered into its lining. When her best friend, a fabric conservator, notices that some of the fabrics are almost certainly unique and rare royal wedding silks, Caroline becomes determined to discover more about the quilt and its mysterious origins.

Through the fading memories of her mother, some family letters and photographs, some old cassette tapes and the help of a local journalist, she uncovers an extraordinary story involving a royal affair, a life of incarceration, an illegal adoption and two women whose lives collided with devastating consequences.

Finally, Caroline comes to understand what her Granny wanted her to know – the truth about herself and how she wants to live her own life.

My Review

2014 is turning out to be a year of kick-ass historicals and I’m happily adding The Forgotten Seamstress by Liz Trenow to that list!

The Forgotten Seamstress is a dual narrative (which I love) set in dual time periods (which I also love). Caroline’s story is set in present time. She’s at a pivotal point in her life, newly single and unemployed, when she finds her beloved grandmother’s quilt. After a friend spots the value of the fabric used in the quilt (royal silk), and Caroline finds a short poem stitched into the lining, she sets out to find the history of the quilt and what royal connection, if any, there is. With the help of a handsome journalist Caroline’s journey leads her to the mental hospital where her grandmother came into possession of it, where a woman named Maria was in residence for decades, against her will.

Maria’s story is told in her own voice via taped interviews and letters. She relates her time in service to the royal family as an accomplished seamstress, where she has a brief romance with the Prince of Wales, and as a consequence is locked up in a mental asylum so as to silence her. Imprisoning women and undesirables in mental asylums was a very common practice back then and I can’t imagine the terror those people must have felt. It actually affected me so much so that I had nightmares!

As the novel unfolds we learn more about Maria and what each panel of the quilt represents. I don’t want to say too much more, you really should read it for yourself. It’s an incredible novel that I will never forget. It was a heart wrenching read that will completely captivate you. I definitely see it making my Top Reads list of 2014! I can’t wait to pick up her other novel, The Last Telegram, and will be anxiously waiting for the publication of her upcoming release, The Poppy Factory.


  1. Taking this also to my TBR! Thank you for a wonderful review.

  2. Oh cool - hadn't heard of this author yet! Sounds awesome.


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