Colette Patterns is hosting a book club this year and the discussion for the first book started this week. The book club description says it will focus on texts "that enhance our understanding of sewing" with a new book every six weeks. I joined hoping to find a few great technical texts to learn from, but I read The Forgotten Seamstress by Liz Trenow on my Kindle (affiliate link) and enjoyed it enough. I downloaded the first four chapters for free, and it was interesting enough to want to keep going. The story is an fast and easy read. Keep reading for my responses to the discussion questions for the book. You can also visit the Colette Book Club discussion blog post to see the other responses to the book.
1) What did you think of the book?
The Forgotten Seamstress reminded me of a Hallmark movie. It was pleasant enough to read, although I found it almost entirely predictable and underdeveloped. I rarely read contemporary fiction, and this book fit pretty well within my reasons for avoiding it (predictable, mild character development, modern romance). However, the book was great in the same ways a flimsy movie can be great - it was fun to spend time with the characters and escape into a story that was interesting enough to keep me reading despite the mediocre literary value. I found the chapters telling Maria's story the most interesting, wondered if the author had ever experienced a miscarriage because it seemed oddly done, and identified with the way Caroline suddenly became discontent with her flat decor after having been so in love with it. I can relate to the way events and experiences can suddenly and rapidly change our perspective and preferences. I also enjoyed the sewing and stitching references in the book. Although I found the book highly predictable, I was surprised by the letters inside the quilt, but incredulous as to how they could have survived decades of wear. I would imagine the ink alone, if not the paper, would have faded and perhaps washed away. However, I found the part of the story where they pieced those letter together the part I would have most wanted to be part of!
2) If you found out that you might be descended from royalty, how would you react? Would you try to claim your place or would you keep it a secret?
I think I would take a similar view as Caroline did. I would be interested in knowing as much as I could about the people and circumstances involved, but I don't know that the effort to claim a place would have an benefit.
3) This book deals with risk and security. Maria knows that she’s risking her job when she has an affair with a man she can never marry—but she ends up losing much more than that. When Caroline loses her steady banking job, she starts a risky but fulfilling career as an interior designer. If you took a risk, what would it be?
I have no good answer for this. In hindsight, I can see risks I've taken in life - where to attend school, jobs, house to buy, etc, and I can see how decisions I've made have shaped the person I've become. I guess future risks will continue to be decisions I make without fully knowing the results they will bring as each time comes.
4) You can see a pattern for Maria’s quilt and different versions that people have made on Liz Trenow’s website. Did it look the way you imagined? Would you like to make a quilt based on this book?
I looked up these links to the quilt examples immediately upon finishing the book (which I read on Kindle) because I had a difficult time picturing the quilt design. In my mind it looked less cohesive and very dark - not as bright as some of the interpretations. I am a very new quilter, but I have decided to take the idea of the memorial quilt as the concept behind a small improvisational quilt I am working on this month as part of the Mighty Lucky Quilting Club monthly challenge. So, the quilt will look nothing like the book's, but the fact that the improv quilt will represent a significant aspect of my life that I want to commemorate will be related to the book. (To see what I created, click here.)
5) Have you read Liz Trenow’s other book about silk, The Last Telegram? Would you recommend it? By the way, if you like Liz Trenow, there’s good news: she’s writing another novel about the silk trade, and it comes out in 2017.
I have not read it. Not sure if I will look or it or not. If I were taking a trip or needing a quick and light read, I might consider it.
I hope you'll consider joining in with the book club, too! I plan to continue reading along with the Book Club. The next book has been announced and focuses on "the shockingly high cost of cheap fashion" and you can find out about it here. You can jump in and join the book club at any time. The discussion for this second book will begin on the Colette blog on April 1, 2016, which is also when the third title will be announced.