The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding

The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding

by Jennifer Robson


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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.




Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062674951
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 12/31/2018
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 1,342
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Jennifer Robson is the USA Today and #1 Toronto Globe & Mail bestselling author of Somewhere in France, After the War is Over and Moonlight Over Paris. She holds a doctorate from Saint Antony’s College, University of Oxford. She lives in Toronto with her husband and young children.

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The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Anonymous 7 months ago
Fascinating story of Queen Elizabeth II’s family couturier. Interesting read of the wedding gown details and the accompanying story of the embroiderers. Ms Robson wrote a wonderful historically correct novel.
Anonymous 8 months ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Couldnt put it down. Historical and great characters
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
gaele More than 1 year ago
Told in three perspectives, the past in 1947 London and the present that starts in 2016 Toronto, the story is narrated by three characters. Ann, Miriam and Heather, and the interconnection of the three is truly magical. Ann is a working-class girl who, at the age of 14, was apprenticed to the embroidery rooms of Norman Hartnell, couturier to Queen Mary and the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, as well as a legion of society women. Miriam, a French Jew has arrived in London with some samples, two references and a list of houses that may be able to provide her work as an embroiderer. Miriam survived the occupation and a camp, only to find herself unable to stay in Paris, alone and without family – so to London she goes. A bold decision on Miriam’s part puts her in front of Mr. Hartnell, and whisked off to the embroidery rooms, where she meets Ann and the others. With a friendly atmosphere, the two start to get to know one another, and a last-moment situation has Ann offering Miriam a room to rent, while the two are little more than friendly strangers, they have the work in common, and soon their trust builds. While Ann’s introduction to a toff that Miriam finds “oily” can only lead to trouble, Miriam’s introduction to a magazine owner / editor / journalist only can lead to good things for her. But this is about the embroidery – the goodwill and wishes for the young bride’s happiness, and the frenzy about the design – kept secret and hidden from the press, even the women working on the dress weren’t allowed to share the information. Yet aside from the monumental event and the dress itself, ‘sample’ pieces of embellishment were created, only to be unearthed by Ann’s granddaughter Heather some 80 years later. It is Heather’s quest to know her Nan, someone who never mentioned England or why she left, never mentioned being involved with the gown, or even being in Westminster on the day, shared little to nothing about sewing or embroidery, but owned and ran a knitting / wool shop until she retired. What Robson has done here is told 2 women’s stories about life after the war, their worries, struggles, concerns and their unwavering dedication to the work they performed, even when they couldn’t share a bit of info. With painstaking research and some glimpses into the massive numbers of hands required to create such a masterpiece, what never gets lost is the heart. The heart of a woman who was so determined to make a new life that nothing from her past was shared, another whose entire life and sense of self were threatened and endangered by a hateful regime, yet who never forgot the first friend she made or her promises to that friend, and the heart of a granddaughter, seeking answers to questions that she couldn’t have asked of her grandmother, uncovering secrets long held, and doing so in a way that the story unfolds and shares a single year in 1947, with all the ties to the present. I’ve always heard (from grandparents) the story of the Princess Elizabeth’s wedding and the boost that it gave the struggling citizens of England – with rationing, shortages and survival being little to celebrate. And Robson managed to bring the story to us in ways that made it feel personal and something that you would want to invest your time and emotion. Each moment of triumph is celebrated, the relief when the gown is complete, and the retelling of the wedding day itself, from those invited as a thank you to those working behind the scenes.
KrittersRamblings 4 months ago
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings What a perfect historical fiction! Dueling storylines - Ann and Miriam are in London 1947 and they work for the fashion house of Norman Hartnell as embroiderers. In Toronto 2016, Heather has just had the death of her grandmother and while going through her things is finding clues of a life she lead that no one knows about. It is obvious early on how these stories will converge and what is most interesting is as you are reading you are wondering where the fact and fiction end.
MichelleKenneth 5 months ago
What a marvelous book! I really enjoyed this one. Set in post-WWII era, in a time when people are trying to move forward with their lives. We are introduced to three main characters: Heather (present day), Miriam Dassin and Ann Hughes (1947). Heather is the grand-daughter of Ann Hughes. When this story begins, Ann has just passed away and has left her grand-daughter a box containing old photos and embroidered samples (that upon further searches online, she discovers they are from Princess Elizabeth's wedding gown). She is perplexed as to why her grandmother had these things saved for her. Where did she get the samples? Surely it was not clipped from the gown itself. Ann never told her daughter or her grand-daughter about her life in England or that she was one of the embroiderers of Princess Elizabeth's gown. Heather seeks out help from the only known clue she has - a photo of Ann with the famous artist Miriam Dassin. The book switches between present day and the past to explain the special relationship between two women during one of the most important moments in British history. But instead of focusing on just the big wedding day, the story focuses on the women who helped create the beautiful gown and their own personal challenges. The book was absolutely beautifully done. I loved it from start to finish. A bit of warning though for those sensitive to violence against women. There are a couple of pages that are difficult to stomach, but explains so much. Just be prepared that something very bad will happen in this book. It will last a couple of pages and then it's over. The other 360+ pages make up for that horrible moment. I put that warning out, because I know that people have given this book 1 or 2 stars because of those 2 pages. So if you are sensitive to that subject matter, it is best you forego this book. Consider yourself forewarned. Otherwise, I really recommend this book. It's a nice, easy read. You learn so much about what went into the making of this gown. You'll walk away with more appreciation for couture fashion and special gowns. You'll also enjoy the friendship between two very special women who found each other post-WWII.
MysM 7 months ago
Fascinating historical fiction, Robson has pulled together many threads of the time: post war austerity in Britain, the role of the monarchy in buoying public spirit, the declining yet still marked difference between classes, personal rebuilding from wartime trauma, and the painstaking skill of embroidery in a designer's factory as female employees work against the clock with pride to complete an amazing gown for Princess Elizabeth's upcoming wedding. The story is told in two different times and places:  London, 1947, and Toronto, 2016.  The connection is the journalist granddaughter of one of the embroiderers seeking to discover her grandmother's past — a past neither she nor her mother knew anything about, yet one that leads her on a path to an incredible story which turns out to be this story.  As the past is being told in turns by Ann and Miriam, embroiderers in the Mayfair fashion house of Norman Hartnell, Heather Mackenzie opens a box left to her by her grandmother to find beautiful, delicate embroideries that research on the internet reveals to be part of the wedding gown Queen Elizabeth II wore when she married Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten. Ann Hughes is the last of her family; her brother was killed in the blitz and her parents had died before that.  She and her brother's widow, Milly, live together in a council house meant for a family of 4.  When Milly decides to emigrate to Canada, Ann invites a new embroiderer at Hartnell's, Miriam Dassin, to live with her.  It is only when Ann sees the drawings her friend works on in her spare time that she realizes Miriam is a French Jew who has survived the holocaust but is clearly suffering from post-war trauma.  Each of the women meets someone interesting and is wooed — one for herself and one for information about the gown for the wedding, details of which are to be top secret and the revelation of which could net the seller a huge profit.  One finds true love while the other is brutally abused and disillusioned.  After the wedding, one becomes a great artist while the other retreats to a quiet and obscure life to raise her daughter where no questions will be asked. The Gown is a powerful story, well told with compelling and well researched details. Almost as interesting as the novel itself, is the author's notes in the back about how she did her research, what sparked her interest in this story, an interview with a surviving seamstress who worked on the gown, and questions for book clubs, which is becoming an expected addition to novels today.  A thoroughly enjoyable book, for me, is one that sends me searching for more information on the internet and makes further connections of interest for me to read and follow.  This is one of those books.  While it is the first I've read by Jennifer Robson, it will not be the last.  All of her titles sound equally interesting and I will certainly be delving into them. 
nhr3bookcrazyNR More than 1 year ago
Loved it! I was immediately caught up in this story. I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. I loved the way it went from one woman's story to the next. Great book - from beginning to end!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
1947 Ann Hughes works with other seamstresses in making the gowns of wealthy women and members of the royal family. She is employed by world-famous dress designer, Mr. Hartnell. Ann has risen to a senior position in the embroidery room. Miriam Dassin has just arrived in London from France. She is Jewish and her family had died in a death camp. Her father changed her name and got her a job doing embroidery work for Christian Dior so she could essentially “hide in plain sight.” However, Miriam did spend some time in a labor camp along with Catherine, sister of Christian Dior. The two women stayed strong and were finally freed after the war. It took them some time to get their strength back. Miriam presents herself to Mr. Hartnell with a letter of reference from Christian Dior and he offers her a job in the embroidery room. Ann’s widowed sister-in-law with whom she lived, decides to move to Canada and live with her brother. So, needing someone to share her place, Miriam moves in and they become very good friends. They both endure a harsh winter and very little rations for food and coal for heat. But they endure. When the girls learn that Mr. Hartnell will be making the wedding gown of Princess Elizabeth, they are ecstatic. Thus begins the meticulous work which includes some beautiful embroidery work that Ann and Miriam are completing. 2016 - Heather - Canada Heather has just learned that her beloved grandmother has died and she is heartbroken. Her Nan had left her a box of embroidered flowers and she wonders what they mean. So, Heather takes a trip to London to search for her grandmother’s early years there and her connections to the embroidery that matches Princess Elizabeth’s wedding gown. I hope that I have not given out too many spoilers here, but as this is such a intricate book, I want to lay out the basic scope of it. What a delightful story of what people suffered in the war and their determination to rise from it. I loved the in-depth explanation of the intricate work required for the Princess’s wedding gown and the love of not only the women making it, but the entire country who eagerly awaited the wedding. I have done lots of needlework and sewing over the years and am an avid fan of the English royal family, so for me, this book was a real treat. Oh, but there is much more than the making of the gown. There is love, mischief, and heartbreak. Do read this book. because I know it will be one that will stay with you for a long time to come. I borrowed this book from my local library.
whatsbetterthanbooks More than 1 year ago
Evocative, enchanting, and beautifully written! The Gown is a captivating, sentimental tale predominantly set in London post-WWII, as well as present day, that follows the lives of three main characters.  Ann, a young talented embroider employed by the esteemed Norman Hartnell; Miriam, a Holocaust survivor and émigré from France who becomes Ann's coworker and close friend; and Heather, Ann's granddaughter who after discovering embroidered flowers in her grandmother's possessions after her passing embarks on a journey to determine their significance. The prose is eloquent and well turned.  The characters are flawed, multifaceted, hardworking, and brave. And the plot, along with all the seamlessly intertwined subplots, is an impressive mix of drama, familial dynamics, emotion, secrets, love, loss, duty, heartbreak, passion, and courage; as well as an insightful look at life in postwar London and the importance of female friendships. Overall, The Gown is a wonderful blend of historical facts and compelling fiction that's mesmerizing, gripping, nostalgic and perfect for those who love anything royal.
gmcootie More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed The Gown by Jennifer Robson. It moves back in forth in time and location from post-World War II England to present day Canada, and focuses on the lives of Ann and Miriam, embroiderers who have the privilege of working on Princess Elizabeth’s wedding gown and Heather, Ann’s granddaughter. When Ann dies she leaves a set of hand-stitched flowers to Heather. This is the first anyone knows that Ann was an embroiderer; she never spoke of her life in Britain, not what work she did nor anything about Heather’s grandfather. Heather and Ann were very close, and Heather feels there must be a special reason that her Nan left these beautiful embroideries to her and feels obligated to find the story behind them. What she discovers is shocking. The Gown is a wonderful story, rich in history and emotion, and vivid descriptions of the hard times and privation in England after the war. Even in 1947 Ann is a very private person. She has experienced heartbreak and hardship and her expectations for happiness are low. She befriends Miriam, however, and they are both honored to be chosen to work on the royal wedding gown. Miriam has come to England from France and has experienced heartbreak and hardship of her own and has secrets she is afraid to share. Her bond with Ann is a blessing for them both. She initially seems like a minor character compared to Ann, but as the story progresses you realize that Miriam’s story has been developing all along as well. Even though Ann is so private and Miriam so secretive and there are many details we don’t know about them, we can feel their cold and hunger, their pain and regret, but also the joy in their work. The Mayfair fashion house of Norman Hartnell comes alive with fascinating, stunning descriptions of the embroidery process. The switch in time and location from 1947 England to 2016 Canada works well. Even though Ann didn’t reveal much of herself, her relationship with her granddaughter Heather is close and special and the embroideries are precious to Heather. Heather’s journey of discovery leads her to unexpected places and people. The characters are varied and well developed. Some were so evil I could hardly stand it, and other were so loving I couldn’t get enough. The story moves smoothly along, with enough mystery to keep me turning pages, and enough joy and love to make me feel fulfilled. I received a copy of The Gown from the author, but a review was not expected nor required, and all opinions are my own. I thoroughly enjoyed The Gown and highly recommend it.
Candice_S More than 1 year ago
This book! My heavens, if there is a rating higher than 5 out of 5, this book deserves it without question! I'm so grateful my book club chose this as our January read, as I don't know that I would have dived into it so aggressively otherwise. Within 3 chapters I was FULLY invested in the lives of Ann, Miriam and Heather, and completely engrossed in the life and voice of Ann and Miriam living in 1947 England. This book is just so TREMENDOUSLY well done - research that went into making even the tiniest details of this story legitimate is truly remarkable. I didn't realize that I was quite so interested in the royal family, much less the now-Queen's wedding until I read this book. That Jennifer took the perspective of the women who did the embroidery of the wedding gown is what makes this book as incredible as it is. I would be lying if I said it ever crossed my mind that human beings were the ones doing the intricate embroidery on these gowns and veils, but now that this is fully on my radar, I am obsessed with learning more. And that doesn't even begin to touch on the remarkable strength, bravery and resilience of each of the three lead characters in the story. Or the incredible love and support all the women in this book show one another as they navigate their lives after the war, and leading up to the royal wedding. I fell completely in love with Ann and Miriam, and laughed and cried along with their successes and tragedies. I fell madly in love with Kaz as a character. I wanted to be able to reach out and hug Miss Duley who was so lovely to the women who worked for her. It says something about a book, when as a reader I finish and I desperately want MORE of these stories, and these characters. This is 1000% a recommended read if you are looking for something engrossing, lovely and completely compelling. You can't help but fall in love with this story - and you won't regret a minute of it.
KristenCalderon More than 1 year ago
I wrote the same on Amazon because I bought the physical copy and audible version. She has done it again! Jennifer is an amazing author who really knows how to tell a story. She tells them from varying perspectives in this book and doesn't skip a beat! She thoroughly researches each book she writes and most fans of Jennifer's will notice some appearances by past characters we grew to know and love. I know each time I get a book by Jennifer that I won't be able to put it down and will be captivated by the story, as if I myself am in it. Thank you Jennifer for such wonderful work and I look forward to the next book!
rendezvous_with_reading More than 1 year ago
Thank you William Morrow Books for a free copy to review! Written in dual time periods and from the point of view of three women, I found this to be a captivating read. At the heart of this novel is the friendship between Ann and Miriam. Both have suffered great losses and are alone in the world. Miriam, hides the pain she suffered in France as a Jew under the Nazi regime. Together they start to make a new life for themselves as Britain too, finds its feet after the war. You can imagine how bright and hopeful life for these two girls would be; knowing their work on such a gown would be part of history. I always love how Jennifer Robson connects her novels by overlapping characters from previous novels. I wont spoil it, but lets just say an endearing character from Goodnight From London gets a sequel in this novel. This well researched glimpse into post war Britain, really gives you a feel for the struggles the nation faced in their recovery, both in economy and morale. I thoroughly enjoyed this one! If you have Anglophile tendencies; grab a copy, brew a pot of tea, and snuggle in for a satisfying read!
teachlz More than 1 year ago
Review Lindas Book Obsession Reviews “The Gown” by Jennifer Robson Kudos to Jennifer Robson, Author of “The Gown” for vividly writing and describing the enchanting, emotional, exciting, heartbreaking, enthralling and intriguing novel about one of the most famous Royal wedding dresses in history and the workers who created it. The Genres for this story are Historical Fiction, and Romance. The timelines for this story are in the past after World War Two, and in the present. The story goes further in the past only when it pertains to the characters in the events in the stories.The story takes place in England, France, Canada, and the United States. The author describes her colorful characters as hardworking, creative, complex and complicated perhaps to the events in history. In 2016, in Toronto, Heather Mackenzie is left some material with exquisite embroidered flowers in an envelope addressed to her from her late grandmother, Nan. Heather has no idea what they mean. They appear to be at least 70 years old, and possibly have something to do that was part of Queen Elizabeth’s wedding gown. After viewing some pictures of Nan, and some friends from years ago, Heather wants the opportunity to go to London to learn what Nan’s live was like. Nan was a quiet woman, and never shared many parts of her life. When Heather is in London she is trying to find former friends and acquaintances of her grandmother. Heather realizes that there is a huge connection with the famous textile artist Miriam Dassin, a holocaust survivor, and her grandmother. In 1947, Ann Hughes (Nan) and Miriam Dassin feel lucky to be working as embroiderers for the fashion house of Norman Hartnell. In London, it is a cruel cold winter with shortages of fuel, food and many items. After World War Two, England is still trying to recover as most of the world is. Norman Hartnell is known for making gowns for the Royal family. There is a huge fascination with the royal family. Ann and Miriam are living in Ann’s house and go to work together, and become the closet of friends.. Miriam has an exceptional artistic talent and Ann encourages her. Miriam also has deep dark secrets and guilt. When Princess Elizabeth gets engaged at the young age of 21, Norman Hartnell as well as his employees are hoping that they get to design the wedding gown. When Norman Hartnell and staff get to do the gown, extreme measures of secrecy are put in place. Newspapers and journalist are trying to get information on the royal wedding gown. Unscrupulous people are willing to pay a fortune to get information about the gown to make money. These are still desperate and dangerous times. The “Gown” represents to many of the workers hope, and faith and love. What does Heather learn about her grandmother and Miriam Dassin’s relationship? Why has Nan been so secretive about her life? How does this tie into the making of the most famous gown in history? The author is an amazing storyteller, and the details of how hard it was for the workers getting the materials, and making the designs was so intriguing. I would recommend this book for readers that love the genre of Historical Fiction.