Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Book Review: The Forgotten Seamstress, by Liz Trenow

Take note: My reviews always contains billions of spoilers! Be warned!

The Forgotten SeamstressThe Forgotten Seamstress by Liz Trenow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fair warning: I was given this book by a publicist who knows that I like "crafty" books.

This crafty book, however, also speaks to another of my reading passions: the postmodern novel. If you haven't read The Crying of Lot 49, think of The DaVinci Code, I guess--you've got your questionable narrators, your ending that isn't totally tied up into a neat little package, your mixing of high and low cultures, your "metafiction", etc. Add to that my further loves of mysteries and conspiracy fiction, and I was happy as a clam reading about a prince's secret seamstress lover, the conspiracy that incarcerated her in a mental institution for decades, and the tricky methodology for establishing the provenance of a quilt of hers that resurfaced something like a century later.

My favorite aspect of the novel is the relationships between the female characters. The men are either thoughtless cads who use their wealth and privilege to abuse a woman without money or resources, servants of the plot (like that interior design guy), or amiable, affable, easy-going fellows who most definitely would NOT seduce a woman, lock her away, and kidnap her baby. The female characters, however, are complicated, they suffer and prevail in small ways and then suffer some more, but are able to rely on each other in ways that they cannot rely on their families or the men in their lives. It's telling, I think, that the prince does not rescue (or even seem to think about ever again) his former lover; it's the heroine's best buddy who eventually finds her and saves her, and the woman who secretly, illegally adopted the heroine's baby who aids her, and then brings her into her family, as well.

Because relationships are complicated, and lives can be sad, it's fitting that the book doesn't end with absolutely everything happily ever after. Frankly, I have doubts about the longevity of Caroline's business idea--patchwork upholstery? Really?--and that antique quilt is never going to be the same, no matter how extensive the restoration, and why would you not want to tell the world that you're a part of the royal lineage?!? Are UK people just bored with the whole royalty thing, that they seriously wouldn't be interested in being Queen Elizabeth's great grand-niece or whatever? I'd totally be all over that--I want to be a duchess!

But the ending fits the book, since you know that when the story is over, there is still going to be some sad and some happy and some sad again in the characters' lives, just as their will be in ours.

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