A beautiful and captivating dual-time story that takes you back and forth between 1910 and 2008.
Maria is an orphan in 1910 who, with her tiny hands has become an excellent seamstress. She and her friend Nora are soon whisked away to Buckingham Palace to work as seamstresses. Maria catches the eye of the young Prince of Wales and finds herself in a delicate situation. Not wanting a royal scandal, Maria is taken away to a mental institution. The staff at the mental institution not only take her baby and her sanity, but Maria still has her story that she preserves in a quilt.
In 2008, Caroline has just lost her boyfriend and her job. She is also trying to take care of her mother who has dementia. Caroline is helping her mother clean out her house when she comes across a beautiful and unique quilt. Caroline needs something to fill her time, so she decides to try and figure out the history behind it.
Maria and Caroline's story are both enthralling and tragic. I found the book more and more addicting as their stories begin to intersect and Caroline becomes closer to finding the mystery behind the quilt. Artfully woven, Liz Trenow brings us back and forth between Maria's story and Caroline's. Although we really only get to meet Maria through a series of transcribed cassette tape recordings when she is an older woman, her story is enchanting and I wanted nothing more than the truth to be unraveled. The quilt as a character itself was very intriguing; we follow the quilt from it's inception through the worst parts of Maria's life, to Caroline discovering it's secrets.
I love historical fiction, obviously, and learning about different periods of history. This was a different time period for me to read about and I enjoyed learning about the inner workings of Buckingham Palace and the Prince of Wales. However, the most interesting aspect of this time period was the institution. It did not surprise me at all that people were institutionalized agaist their will, especially women. Maria's story is a good insider's look at how people were treated in institutions at this time.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
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Read The First Four Chapters!
The first four chapters are available on Kindle and NOOK
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Make Maria's Quilt:
You may not be able to find the royal silks to go in it, but if you are a quilter you may want to try your hand at the quilt pattern featured in the story. Find directions here.
I was born and brought up in a house next to the family silk mill. My father, and then my brother, went to work each day at the mill, so silk played a large part in my early life, even though I didn’t really appreciate that at the time.
As a student I did a range of holiday jobs in the mill but, like Lily in The Last Telegram, the business held no real romance for me. What I really wanted was to become a journalist so, after a few years teaching skiing in Canada, that is what I became. I worked in news and features for local and regional newspapers, as a news journalist for local radio and regional television, and at BBC Broadcasting House and Television Centre, before leaving to work in PR which had much more family-friendly working hours!
The silk company has a long and distinguished history which had never been recorded, so I started to research it with the intention of writing a book, but work, marriage and my two lovely daughters took precedence in my life and, like Harold Verner’s, my research languished in a file. As my parents reached their eighties, I realised there might not be much time left, and started recording conversations with them, individually and together, about their extraordinary lives.
During one of these conversations, my father mentioned that during the Second World War what kept the mill going were contracts to weave silk for parachutes, surgical dressings (silk has amazing antiseptic properties) and electrical insulation (plastic had not been invented). He also told me how tricky it had been getting the porosity of the fabric just right for parachutes.
The germ of an idea for a novel was born, but it was not until I retired from full-time work and took an MA in Creative Writing at City University in London that I started writing The Last Telegram, and the story started to unfold.
My research into the history of the company is also complete and some of information is already available on the website for Stephen Walters & Sons Ltd. The fuller version will be published later this year, although probably not for public sale.
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