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

Robson, Jennifer. The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding. New York: William Morrow, 2019.

Paperback | $16.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0062674951 | 387 pages | Historical Ficition

4 stars

The Gown is a unique book for our Royals-obsessed society in that it focuses only peripherally on the Royals themselves, putting the then-Princess Elizabeth’s iconic wedding gown in center stage, and giving voices not only to the women seamstresses who worked on it, but also to women in the postwar period in a more general sense with poignant detail.

I loved how both Ann and Miriam were shaped by their past tragedies, and that’s what brings them together in the book. Both face difficulties, Miriam due to her Jewish heritage and as a survivor of the Holocaust and Ann due to having lost her parents and in the narrative itself by being duped by a man she believed had an interest in her. And I thought it was powerful that, even though circumstances led the two women to part, the friendship clearly had a deep impact on them, forming the motivation for the modern story follwing Ann’s granddaughter, Heather.

I wasn’t as invested in Heather’s story, although I did feel that some of her emotions were relatable, if a bit cliche for this type of book: finding out your grandmother kept a secret from you and feeling compelled to explore it. However, I did like when she finally met with Miriam, re-forging the connection broken off decades earlier.

The Gown is a history-rich book not just about Elizabeth II’s wedding gown, but about post-World War II life, particularly for women. It is a must-read that I recommend not just for the Royal watchers to whom I suspect it’s been promoted to (given its release on the heels of the 2018 weddings of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle and Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank, respectively, and the brief mentions of various Royal Family members throughout the text itself, but to any reader of historical fiction looking for something new and slightly different.

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