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The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding
by Jennifer Robson

Published: 2018-12-31
Paperback : 400 pages
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Recommended to book clubs by 3 of 3 members

One of the most anticipated reads from USA Today, InStyle, HelloGiggles, Hypable, Bookbub, and Bookriot!

One of Real Simple's Best Historical Fiction novels of the year!

"For fans of “The Crown,” looking for history served up as intimate drama, and those seeking another angle on royal ...

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One of the most anticipated reads from USA Today, InStyle, HelloGiggles, Hypable, Bookbub, and Bookriot!

One of Real Simple's Best Historical Fiction novels of the year!

"For fans of “The Crown,” looking for history served up as intimate drama, and those seeking another angle on royal lives, “The Gown” seems likely to dazzle and delight." – The Washington Post

The Gown is marvelous and moving, a vivid portrait of female self-reliance in a world racked by the cost of war.”--Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Alice Network

From the internationally bestselling author of Somewhere in France comes an enthralling historical novel about one of the most famous wedding dresses of the twentieth century—Queen Elizabeth’s wedding gown—and the fascinating women who made it.

“Millions will welcome this joyous event as a flash of color on the long road we have to travel.”

—Sir Winston Churchill on the news of Princess Elizabeth’s forthcoming wedding

London, 1947: Besieged by the harshest winter in living memory, burdened by onerous shortages and rationing, the people of postwar Britain are enduring lives of quiet desperation despite their nation’s recent victory. Among them are Ann Hughes and Miriam Dassin, embroiderers at the famed Mayfair fashion house of Norman Hartnell. Together they forge an unlikely friendship, but their nascent hopes for a brighter future are tested when they are chosen for a once-in-a-lifetime honor: taking part in the creation of Princess Elizabeth’s wedding gown.

Toronto, 2016: More than half a century later, Heather Mackenzie seeks to unravel the mystery of a set of embroidered flowers, a legacy from her late grandmother. How did her beloved Nan, a woman who never spoke of her old life in Britain, come to possess the priceless embroideries that so closely resemble the motifs on the stunning gown worn by Queen Elizabeth II at her wedding almost seventy years before? And what was her Nan’s connection to the celebrated textile artist and holocaust survivor Miriam Dassin?  

With The Gown, Jennifer Robson takes us inside the workrooms where one of the most famous wedding gowns in history was created. Balancing behind-the-scenes details with a sweeping portrait of a society left reeling by the calamitous costs of victory, she introduces readers to three unforgettable heroines, their points of view alternating and intersecting throughout its pages, whose lives are woven together by the pain of survival, the bonds of friendship, and the redemptive power of love.




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Discussion Questions

1. How would you describe Ann Hughes? What affect did her mother's frequent criticism of her embroidery work have on Ann? How would you describe Ann's emotional state in the aftermath of the war?

2. Ann and Miriam Dassin become friends as the two work on the gown together. What do the women have in common, and in what ways are they different from one another? What forms the basis of their friendship—why are they drawn to one another?

3. How were both women, perhaps especially Miriam, scarred by the war, and how does each woman bear her scars? Why is Miriam so reluctant to tell Ann about Ravensbruck?

4. In what way does the friendship between Ann and Miriam ultimately lead to healing for both women? Do you have a friendship as nurturing as Ann and Miriam's?

6. Talk about the symbolic importance of the gown with regards to the British public. With its 10,000 seed pearls sewn into ivory silk, the gown seems to be an extravagance that might be considered excessive in a time of rationing. What was the public reaction to its luxuriousness?

7. Follow-up to Question 6: Ann's view of the the gown's excess is positive:

The royal family had made sacrifices, same as the rest of them.… The princess deserved a proper wedding...with a glorious gown.… Surely the gray-faced men in Whitehall wouldn't insist on some dreary affair.

Is Ann biased because she is working on the gown? Or is she right in that the Royal family "deserves" a beautiful wedding? What are your thoughts?

8. Talk about Ann's "bittersweet moment" after she has completed the gown? Do you understand her feelings of nostalgia?

9. Were you surprised by the frenzy surrounding the secrecy of the gown? Does it remind you of today's obsessive celebrity watching? Why was absolute secrecy important? Would you have been able to withstand the pressures of maintaining silence?

10. Was Ann right never to have revealed her past over the decades to her family? Would you have done likewise?

11. Do you find Heather Mackenzie's 2016 storyline as engaging as the historical part of the novel? Why or why not?

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