cover image The Forgotten Seamstress

The Forgotten Seamstress

Liz Trenow. Sourcebooks Landmark, $14.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-4022-8248-5

An heirloom patchwork quilt hiding a scandalous royal secret is the link between the generations separating an orphaned seamstress and a modern-day single woman, in Trenow’s (The Last Telegram) solid second novel. Maria Romano, an inmate at the Helena Hall mental hospital, comes to life through a series of taped conversations from 1970, when she was interviewed by a young research student. Fast forward to 2008, when Caroline Meadows, made redundant at her bank job and recently broken up from her boyfriend of five years, discovers she’s pregnant and suddenly becomes curious about the quilt she inherited from her grandmother. The novel pairs the stories of the young women a century apart: Maria, an orphan whose artistic needlework gets her placed in a royal household where she has a dalliance with the Prince of Wales; Caroline, whose own artistic talents and ambitions jump-start her career as an interior designer. Unfortunately, Maria’s saga is much more interesting than that of her modern counterpart, who, as the reader discovers through a convoluted plot thread, has more of a connection to Maria than just her grandmother’s quilt. But nevertheless, this is a page-turner with eye-opening details about the conditions of mental hospitals in the 20th century, as well as the provenance of royal fabrics, the art of quilting, and the vagaries of modern interior design. [em](May) [/em]