Jennifer Ryan has a talent for writing absorbing historical fiction. She began with The Chilbury Ladies Choir, a book that I very much enjoyed. Next came The Spies of Shilling Lane and then The Kitchen Front. I recommend all of these. The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle is the next, English set, WWII story by this author. I really enjoyed it and recommend it highly.
This is a story that, to me, was about change and transformation. Do people have to stay in their strictly defined (by them or others) roles or can they move toward the lives that they want? Watch the characters to find out.
Readers follow three women whose lives and circumstances have been impacted by loss, the war and a heretofore acceptance of given roles. First is Grace; she is the daughter of a village vicar. When Grace’s mother died she stepped up to support her father. Grace, who puts her own needs last, is a very kind “do-gooder”. She is scheduled to marry another vicar but is she settling? What will happen when she again encounters the son of the squire who was a childhood friend? Readers will want the best for this good and likeable character.
Then there is Violet. She accepts and relishes her place in society. She is a rather self-important snob as the novel opens. When Violet is called up to do war work, how will she change? What talents will she discover? How will her views of people change? Violet has always wanted to marry a title, maybe even more than the man. What will happen when she meets a brash American?
Last, but definitely not least, there is Cressida. She is a successful fashion designer whose life is upended by the Blitz. Cressida is Violet’s aunt and Grace’s father is an old friend. Will Cressida and Grace’s father let go of their past grief enough to perhaps get together? Even if a reader thinks that they know the answers, there is pleasure in reading this title.
The author, in addition to telling her characters’ stories, provides readers with an interesting take on the period. Through fashion, readers learn about the system of clothing coupons and a contest for making do in a fashionable way with less. Cressida enters this contest. She also helps Grace to refashion her mother’s beautiful wedding dress…and, by the way, what is the history of this dress? And, of course, there is the sewing circle.
I truly loved this book. I enjoyed the people, the setting and the historical context. Even if you suffer from WWII historical fiction fatigue, I recommend that you read this one!
Many thanks to NetGalley and Random House-Ballentine for this title. All opinions are my own.