Wednesday, June 11, 2014

#REVIEW: The Forgotten Seamstress by Liz Trenow

In this tale spanning two eras, a struggling designer discovers a mysterious quilt with secrets stitched into every seam
In 1910 London, a remarkable young seamstress is noticed by Queen Mary and given a position in the royal household.

A century later, Caroline, a struggling designer, discovers a mysterious hand-me-down quilt with a curious verse embroidered into its lining. When Caroline learns that the fabric in the quilt is rare royal wedding silk and begins to dig deeper, she uncovers the extraordinary story of two women whose lives collide with devastating consequences. But that secret pales in comparison to the truth Caroline finally learns about herself.

5+++ Stars!
Quilters, you are going to LOVE this story! Or anyone who loves to sew, loves fabric, or who just loves a really good story about a quilt, Women's Fiction, and a little bit of history, whether true or not, you will really enjoy this story in this book. I will admit I first fell in love with this book by the cover (isn't it gorgeous!) and the blurb about it, too. I knew this book was for me. It was as if this book spoke to me, saying, "Read me, read me!" I was right, because as soon as I started reading this book, it pulled me right into this story, grabbing a hold of me and I did not want to put the book down at all! I was mesmerized by the story Maria told, and as the chapters alternated between Maria's and Caroline's, all I wanted to read about were Maria's and her life.
This story is an extremely well written yarn about two strangers. One is a modern day woman named Caroline, and the other about a woman named Maria, who according to herself, lived and worked in the Buckingham Palace in the early 1900's, where she was a seamstress to the Royals. Despite her claim, it was challenged closer to the end of her life. She ended up being put into a hospital asylum because people thought she told lies and was crazy. Even all of the doctors and nurses would tell anyone who inquired about her that she was lying about the stories she told, despite her claiming she lived in the Buckingham Palace as the Head Seamstress, it was all a lie, or something she had only convinced herself of. Shame on them, although back in the day if anyone was a little bit slower than average, you were immediately thought of as having problems. 
I loved Maria. The more she taught us about herself, the more we fell in love with her, and she was the neatest character with spunk, even well into her old age! Imagine all she had experienced in her life! Quite a bit! At the same time, her life is a little sad, too.
This story takes place throughout the 1900's in London from about the time Maria was about eight years old or so, and what I just told you about, we heard through an interview from Maria, herself, and it happened to be recorded on cassette tape in 1970. She tells us about her life as an orphan, where she worked days and well into the nights, living in an orphanage until one day she was moved secretively in the dark into a basement of that very large place, never knowing, at first, it was the Royal's Palace. Not until later when they realized what a talented and perfect seamstress Maria was. The Royal's requested her to do their tailoring for them, and only her. To listen to Maria tell us her life story was so enjoyable. She couldn't talk a lot as quiet was required from the people she was around, but she had a mind that ran a thousand miles a minute! Maria's life was not an easy life despite living in the Palace because you have to remember she lived in the basement, so it truly was a treat when the Royal's did need tailoring done. Maria talks about this quilt as she obtains the fabrics to make it, and that was really neat.
Modern day Caroline inherits a quilt. She is awestruck by the fabrics and the perfection of the stitching in it. It's a masterpiece. The longer and closer she looks at this quilt, the more she notices special intricate fabrics with woven metallic threads and special laces! These are the Royals' fabrics. She also notices what looks like a message sewn into the seams of this entire quilt. Who did this and why? She tries to find out just exactly 'who' made the quilt because of this. She ends up researching as much as she can to find out exactly who did, but it's not as easy as she thought it would be, and it would end up impacting her own life, too. This takes us back in time when we hear the story Maria tells us all about herself in the interview. 
This book spans the generations of these two women, and the quilt is really the main character of this book! The quilt tells the story with the hidden messages sewn into it (and why) found by Caroline who happened to inherit the quilt. This quilt touches several women's lives among generations. 
I am not going to forget Maria anytime soon. I think you'll enjoy listening to her story just as much as I did. The chapters alternate back and forth between Maria and Caroline, and I found myself wanting to read more about Maria's life at times than Caroline's! Both characters were extremely enjoyable to read about, don't get me wrong, but Maria had that little extra spice to her! This book will be on my list of favorite books for 2014. 
I received this book for FREE from the Publisher, Sourcebooks Landmark and NetGalley, in exchange to read and write a review about it. "Free" means I was provided with ZERO MONIES to do so, but to enjoy the pure pleasure of reading it and giving my own honest opinion no matter whether it is positive or negative. I am disclosing this information in accordance with the law set here:, The Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255, 16 CFR 255, Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising Federal Acquisition  Regulation.  

A little more info about this book - there is a link in the back of the book which allows you to see the quilt they are talking about in this book. It's at the author's website, if you want to see it. I did not know this was in the book until I was finished reading it. I'm kind of glad I did not know what the quilt looked like because I have envisioned it with my own imagination. I actually envisioned it as being a Crazy Quilt. I don't know if many of you know what pattern a crazy quilt is, but they were extremely popular in the late 1890's, and the way the stitching was described in this book kind of sounded like a crazy quilt. The popularity of this quilt lasted quite a while as they took years to make. How do you make a crazy quilt? You can pretty much take any scrap of fabric, (and this was another reason I was thinking the quilt might be a crazy quilt as I was not expecting Maria to have been given yards of the fancy fabrics/cottons that this author's website is showing in these quilts, and Maria wasn't rich, by far!) fold and/or lay it on top of another piece of fabric. You have the batting in the center and a backing to the quilt. The quilt is stitched together in many different ways to hold the layers together. The biggest thing is the top of the quilt where you used your embroidery skills and just went a little 'crazy' using all kinds of stitches, just like the stitches Maria stated in the book. These quilts can be very ornate, to the point of adding beading, gemstones, and other trinkets onto the top of them. They were extremely heavy because the fabrics were brocades, heavy satins (real satin, not today's light and airy kind). So I enjoyed imagining what the quilt looked like on my own, so it's up to you to decide if you want to look at it prior to reading the book, but here is the author's website:

Want to see the asylum Maria lived in? It is pending for redevelopment, per the book. Go here to see it: 



  1. You have done this review well, I read the book also and loved it. I wanted Maria to have more and was sad she ended up in that asylum for so many years, what a waste. She had tremendous talent. loved the quilt story , what an amazing story Liz has told for us to enjoy.
    Paula O(

    1. Hi pol!
      Thanks for the compliment about the review! I LOVED this story, too, and It is one we don't want to end! I see you loved Maria as much as I did! She was something, huh! Very unique, and we just didn't want to stop hear her talking. Yes, I agree. It was extremely sad they stuck her in that Asylum for all those years. Imagine how much MORE sewing she could have done had it not been for that! I'm glad we both feel the same about such an amazing book! That says a LOT about this book!
      Thanks for coming by the blog and for commenting. too!


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