The British royal family is all the rage these days, and Queen Elizabeth II remains the mother of all matriarchs at 92.
But, as history lovers and fans of “The Crown” know, Elizabeth was once a pretty princess bride.
“The Gown” (William Morrow, $26.99) is subtitled “A Novel of the Royal Wedding,” a clever come-on likely to sell books, if a bit misleading.
The main players in Jennifer Robson’s intelligent and intriguing tale are not the betrothed Elizabeth and Philip but, rather, three decidedly non-royal characters: Ann Hughes and Miriam Dassin in 1947 London and Heather Mackenzie, Ann’s granddaughter, in 2016 Toronto.
The character in the present — Heather, a journalist — must unravel the secrets her beloved “Nan” took to the grave.
Robson shines when she whisks us back to 1947, when Ann and Miriam squeak out an income amid the privations of post-war Britain, working in the exclusive fashion house of Norman Hartnell, real-life couturier to the royal family. The two young embroiderers are cut from very different bolts of cloth but become good friends when Miriam moves in as Ann’s housemate.
Miriam, who is French, has come to England for a fresh start. A Holocaust survivor, she is a particularly well-spun character, who becomes a famous textile artist.
In 1947, though, Ann and Miriam are mere peons, albeit talented ones, on the team tasked with stitching the intricate, delicate embroidery on Elizabeth’s wedding gown. All the world would love a glance at Hartnell’s top-secret design.
Enter the men in the story, some wonderful ones and one terribly bad apple. Robson has the chops of a very good mystery writer, and “The Gown” is at its best in its darkest (and most moving) moments.
Read more at USA Today.