Liz Trenow The Forgotten Seamstress

ISBN 13: 9780007480845

The Forgotten Seamstress

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9780007480845: The Forgotten Seamstress

"An intriguing patchwork of past and present, upstairs and downstairs, hope and despair." ―Daisy Goodwin, New York Times bestselling author of The American Heiress

She Kept Her Secret for a Lifetime...

A shy girl with no family, Maria knows she's lucky to have landed in the sewing room of the royal household. Before World War I casts its shadow, she catches the eye of the Prince of Wales, a glamorous and intense gentleman. But her life takes a far darker turn, and soon all she has left is a fantastical story about her time at Buckingham Palace.

Decades later, Caroline Meadows discovers a beautiful quilt in her mother's attic. When she can't figure out the meaning of the message embroidered into its lining, she embarks on a quest to reveal its mystery, a puzzle that only seems to grow more important to her own heart. As Caroline pieces together the secret history of the quilt, she comes closer and closer to the truth about Maria.

Page-turning and heartbreaking, The Forgotten Seamstress weaves together past and present in an unforgettable journey.

Le informazioni nella sezione "Riassunto" possono far riferimento a edizioni diverse di questo titolo.

About the Author:

Liz Trenow is a former BBC and newspaper journalist, now working freelance. She is also the author of The Last Telegram.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

1.

CASSETTE 1, SIDE 1, APRIL 1970

They told me you want to know my story, why I ended up in this place? Well, there's an odd question, and I've been asking it meself for the past fifty years. I can tell you how I got here and what happened to me. But why? Now that's a mystery.

It's a deep, smoke-filled voice, with a strong East London accent, and you can hear the smile in it, as if she's about to break into an asthmatic chuckle at any moment.

They've probably warned you about me, told you my story is all made up. At least that's what those trick-cyclists would have you believe.

Another voice, with the carefully modulated, well-educated tones of a younger woman: "Trick-cyclist?"

Sorry, dearie, it's what we used to call the psychiatrist, in them old days. Anyway, he used to say that telling tales-he calls them fantasies-is a response to some "ungratified need."

"You're not wrong there," I'd tell him, giving him the old eyelash flutter. "I've been stuck in here most of me life. I've got plenty of ungratified needs." But he'd just smile and say, "You need to concentrate on getting better, my dear, look forward, not backward, all the time. Repeating and reinforcing these fantasies is just regressive behavior, and it really must stop, or we'll never get you out of here."

Well, you can take it or leave it, dearie, but I have to tell it.

"And I would very much like to hear it. That's what I'm here for."

That's very kind of you, my dear. You see, when you've been hidden away from real life for so many years, what else is there to do but remember the times when you were young, when you were meeting new people every day, when you were allowed to have feelings, when you were alive? Nothing. Except for me needlework and other creations, they were the only things that would give me a bit of comfort. So I tell my story to anyone who will listen, and I don't care if they call me a fantasist. Remembering him, and the child I lost, is the only way I could hold onto reality.

So, where do you want me to start?

"At the beginning would be fine. The tape is running now."

You'll have to bear with me, dearie. It'll take some remembering, it was that long ago. I turned seventy-four this year so the old brain cells are not what they used to be. Still, I'll give it a try. You don't mind if I carry on with me sewing while I talk, do you? It helps me concentrate and relax. I'm never happy without a needle in my fingers. It's just a bit of appliqué with a buttonhole stitch-quite straightforward. Stops the fabric fraying, you see?

She is caught by a spasm of coughing, a deep, rattling smoker's cough.

Hrrrm. That's better. Okay, here we go then.

***

My name is Maria Romano, and I believe my mother was originally from Rome, though what she was doing leaving that beautiful sunny place for the dreary old East End of London is a mystery. Do they all grow small, the people who live in Italy? Mum was tiny, so they said, and I've never been more than five foot at the best of times. These days I've probably shrunk to less. If you're that size, you don't have a cat's chance of winning a fight, so you learn to be quick on your feet-that's me. I used to love dancing whenever I had the chance, which wasn't often, and I could run like the wind. But there have been some things in my life even I couldn't run away from-this place being one of them.

The strange thing is that after all those years of longing to get out, once we was allowed to do what we liked, we always wanted to come back-it felt safe and my friends were here. It was my home. When they started talking about sending us all away to live in houses, it made me frightened just to imagine it, and if it was worrying me, what must it have been like for the real crazies? How do they ever cope outside? You're a socio-wotsit, aren't you? What do you think?

"I'm happy to talk about that later, if you like, but we're here to talk about you. So please carry on."

I will if you insist, though I can't for the life of me imagine what you find so interesting in a little old lady. What was I talking about?

"Your mother?"

Ah yes, me poor mum. Another reason to believe she was Italian is my coloring. I'm all gray now, faded to nothing, but my skin used to go so dark in summer, they said I must have a touch of the tar brush, and my shiny black curls were the envy of all the girls at the orphanage. Nora told me the boys thought I was quite a looker, and I learned to flash my big brown eyes at them to make them blush and to watch their glances slip sideways.

"The orphanage?"

Ah yes, Mum died when I was just a babe, only about two years old I was, poor little mite. Not sure what she died of, but there was all kinds of diseases back then in them poor parts of the city, and no doctors to speak of, not for our kind, at least. They hadn't come up with antibiotics or vaccinations, nothing like that-hard to believe now, but I'm talking about the really old days, turn of the century times.

I never heard tell of any grandparents, and after he'd had his fun, my father disappeared off the scene as far as I knew, so when she died, I ended up at The Castle-well, that's what we called it because the place was so huge and gloomy and it had pointy windows and those whatchamacall-ums, them zigzaggy patterns around the top of the walls where the roof should be.

"Castellations?"

It was certainly a fortress, with high iron gates and brick walls all around. To keep dangerous people out, they told us-this was the East End of London after all-but we knew it was really to stop us lot running away. There was no garden as such, no trees or flowers, just a paved yard we could play in when the weather was good.

Inside was all dark wood and stone floors and great wide stairways reaching up three or four stories; to my little legs, it felt like we was climbing up to heaven each time we went to bed. It sounds a bit tragic when I tell it, but I don't remember ever feeling unhappy there. I knew no different. It was warm, the food was good, and I had plenty of company-some of them became true friends.

The nuns was terrifying to us littl'uns at first, in their long black tunics with sleeves that flared out like bat's wings when they ran along the corridors chasing and chastising us. Most of 'em was kindly even though some could get crotchety at times. No surprise really, with no men in their lives, and just a load of naughty children.

It was a better start in life than I'd have had with my poor mum, I'll warrant. Pity it didn't turn out like that in the end.

Anyway, the nuns' sole aim in life was to teach us little monsters good manners and basic reading and writing, as well as skills like cooking, housework, and needlework so we could go into service when we came of an age, which is exactly what happened to me. I 'specially loved needlework. I was good at it, and I loved the attention it give me.

"It's a gift from God," the nuns would say, but I didn't believe that. It was just 'cause I had tiny fingers, and I took more trouble than the others and learned to do it properly. We had all the time in the world, after all.

D'you do any sewing, Miss?

"Not really. I'm more of a words person."

You should give it a try. There's nothing more satisfying than starting with a plain old piece of wool blanket that no one else wants and ending up with a beautiful coat that'll keep a child warm through many a winter. Or to quilt up scraps of cotton patchwork to make a comfy bed cover that ain't scratchy and makes the room look pretty besides.

The needlework room at The Castle had long cutting tables and tall windows set so high you couldn't see out of them, and that was where we spent most of our days. In winter, we'd huddle by the old stove in the corner, and in summer, we'd spread out around the room in gaggles so that we could gossip away from those nuns' ears, which was sharp as pins.

It was all handstitching, mind, no sewing machines in those days, of course. And by the time I was ten, I knew what needle to use with which fabrics and what kind of thread, and I could do a dozen types of stitch, from simple running stitch and back stitching, to fancy embroidery like wheatear and French knots, and I loved to do them as perfect and even as possible so you could hardly tell a human hand had made them. Sister Mary was a good teacher and loved her subject, and I suppose she passed her enthusiasm on to us, so before long, I could name any fabric with my eyes closed just by the feel, tell the difference between crepe and cambric, galatea and gingham, kersey and linsey-woolsey, velvet and velvetine, and which was best for which job.

Not that we saw a lot of fine fabrics, mind. It was mostly plain wool and cotton, much of it secondhand that we had to reclaim from used garments and furnishings. But on occasions, the local haberdashery would bring rolls of new printed cottons and pattern-weave wools they didn't want no more, out of charity, I suppose, for us poor little orphan children and the other little orphans we was making the clothes for.

You look puzzled. Sorry, I get carried away with me memories. The reason we was so busy sewing at The Castle was because the nuns had been asked by the grand ladies of the London Needlework Society to help them with their good works-which was making clothes for poor people. It made us feel special; we had nothing in the world except our skills, and we were using them to help other children like us.

The days when those haberdashers' deliveries arrived was like birthdays and Christmases rolled into one, taking the wrappers off the rolls and discovering new colors and patterns and breathing in that clean, summery smell of new fabric, like clothes drying on a line-there's nothing to match it, even now. When we was growing out of our clothes, the nuns would let us have remnants of patterned cotton to make ourselves new dresses and skirts, and Nora and me would always pick the brightest floral prints. We didn't see too many flowers for real, so it brought a touch of springtime into our lives.

"Nora? You knew each other even then?"

Oh yes, we go way back. She was my best friend. We was around the same age, so far as we knew, and always shared a dormitory, called ourselves sisters-the family kind, not the nun kind-and swore we'd never be parted. Not that we looked like family by any stretch: she was blond, and by the time we was fourteen, she towered above me at five feet six with big feet she was always tripping over and a laugh like a tidal wave which made anyone around her-even the nuns-break out into a smile. She had large hands too, double the size of mine, but that didn't stop her being a good needleworker. We was naughty little minxes, but we got away with it 'cause we worked hard.

Like I say, we was happy because we knew no different, but we was also growing up-even though my chest was flat and my fanny still smooth as a baby's bottom, Nora was getting breasts and hair down there, as well as under her arms, and both of us was starting to give the eye to the gardener's lad and the baker's delivery boy, whenever the nuns weren't watching.

That day, we was doing our needlework when this grand lady with a big hat and feathers on the top of her head comes with a gaggle of her lah-di-dah friends, like a royal visit it was, and she leans over what I am embroidering and says, "What fine stitching, my dear. Where did you learn that?"

And I says back, "It's daisy chain, ma'am. Would you like to see how it works?" And I finish the daisy with three more chain links spaced evenly around the circle like they are supposed to be and quickly give it a stem and a leaf which doesn't turn out too bad, even though my fingers are trembling and sweaty with being watched by such a grand person. She keeps silence till I've finished and then says in her voice full of plums and a bit foreign, "That is very clever, dear, very pretty. Keep up the good work," and as she moves on to talk to another girl, I breathe in the smell of her, like a garden full of roses, what I have never smelled before on a human being.

Afterward I hears her asking Sister Mary about me and Nora, was we good girls and that sort of thing, but we soon forgot about her and that was it for a few months till my birthday-it was January 1911 when I turned fifteen-and me and Nora, whose birthday was just a few days before, gets a summons from Sister Beatrice, the head nun. This only usually happens when one of us has done something wicked like swearing "God" too many times or falling asleep in prayers, so you can imagine the state that Nora and me are in as we go up the stairs to the long corridor with the red Persian runner and go to stand outside the oak door with those carvings that look like folds of fabric in each panel. I am so panicked that I feel like fainting, and I can tell that Nora is trying to stifle the laugh that always bubbles up when she's nervous.

Sister calls us in and asks us to sit down on leather-seated chairs that are so high that my legs don't reach the ground and I have to concentrate hard on not swinging them 'cause I know that annoys grown-ups more than anything else in the world.

She turns to me first. "Miss Romano? I think it is your birthday today?" she asks, and I am so startled at being called "Miss" that I can't think of anything better to say than, "Yes, ma'am."

"Then God bless you, child, and let me wish you many happy returns of this day," she says, nearly smiling.

"Thank you, ma'am," I say, trying to ignore the way Nora's body is shaking beside me.

"Miss Featherstone?" says Sister, and I know that if Nora opens her mouth, the laugh will just burst out, so she just nods and keeps her head bent down, but this doesn't seem to bother Sister Beatrice, who just says, "I understand that you two are good friends, are you not?" I nod on behalf of us both, and she goes on, "I hear very positive things about the two of you, especially about your needlework skills, and I have some very exciting news."

She goes on to tell us that the grand lady who came a few months ago is a duchess and is the patron of the Needlework Society and was visiting to inspect the work that the convent was doing for the poor children of the city. She was so impressed by the needlework Nora and me showed her that she is sending her housekeeper to interview us about going into service.

A duchess! Well, you can imagine how excited we was but scared too, as we haven't a clue what to expect, and our imaginations go into overtime. We was going to live in a beautiful mansion with a huge garden and sew clothes for very important people, and Nora is going to fall in love with one of the chauffeurs but I have my sights set a bit higher, a soldier in the Light Brigade in his red uniform perhaps, or a city gent in a bowler hat. Either way, both of us are going to have our own comfortable houses next door to each other with little gardens where we can grow flowers and good things to eat and have lots of children who will play together, and we will live happily ever after.

There's a pause. She clears her throat loudly.

Forgive me, miss, don't mind if I has a smoke?

"Go ahead, that's fine. Let's have a short break."

No, I'll just light up and carry on, please, 'cause if I interrupt meself, I'll lose the thread.

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Descrizione libro HarperCollins Publishers, United Kingdom, 2014. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. A stunning book set in the Edwardian era about a seamstress working at Buckingham Palace. Full of drama, betrayal and compelling historical detail - The Forgotten Seamstress by Liz Trenow is perfect for fans of Kate Morton and Joanne Harris.It is 1914 and Maria, a shy teenager, is appointed to Buckingham Palace as a seamstress for the royal family. She is lucky enough to meet the Prince of Wales and is captivated by his glamour and intensity. But theirs is a doomed love affair and soon Maria s life takes a tragic turn. Torn between passion and integrity, she makes a choice that has devastating consequences .Can a beautiful quilt, discovered many years later reveal the truth behind what happened to Maria?. Codice libro della libreria AA89780007480845

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Descrizione libro HarperCollins Publishers, United Kingdom, 2014. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. A stunning book set in the Edwardian era about a seamstress working at Buckingham Palace. Full of drama, betrayal and compelling historical detail - The Forgotten Seamstress by Liz Trenow is perfect for fans of Kate Morton and Joanne Harris.It is 1914 and Maria, a shy teenager, is appointed to Buckingham Palace as a seamstress for the royal family. She is lucky enough to meet the Prince of Wales and is captivated by his glamour and intensity. But theirs is a doomed love affair and soon Maria s life takes a tragic turn. Torn between passion and integrity, she makes a choice that has devastating consequences .Can a beautiful quilt, discovered many years later reveal the truth behind what happened to Maria?. Codice libro della libreria AA89780007480845

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Descrizione libro Avon, 2014. Condizione libro: New. A stunning book set in the Edwardian era about a seamstress working at Buckingham Palace. Full of drama, betrayal and compelling historical detail - The Forgotten Seamstress by Liz Trenow is perfect for fans of Kate Morton and Joanne Harris. Num Pages: 400 pages. BIC Classification: FA. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 197 x 128 x 31. Weight in Grams: 284. . 2014. Paperback. . . . . . Codice libro della libreria V9780007480845

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Descrizione libro Avon. Condizione libro: New. A stunning book set in the Edwardian era about a seamstress working at Buckingham Palace. Full of drama, betrayal and compelling historical detail - The Forgotten Seamstress by Liz Trenow is perfect for fans of Kate Morton and Joanne Harris. Num Pages: 400 pages. BIC Classification: FA. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 197 x 128 x 31. Weight in Grams: 284. . 2014. Paperback. . . . . Books ship from the US and Ireland. Codice libro della libreria V9780007480845

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Descrizione libro HarperCollins Publishers. Paperback. Condizione libro: new. BRAND NEW, The Forgotten Seamstress, Liz Trenow, A stunning book set in the Edwardian era about a seamstress working at Buckingham Palace. Full of drama, betrayal and compelling historical detail - The Forgotten Seamstress by Liz Trenow is perfect for fans of Kate Morton and Joanne Harris. It is 1914 and Maria, a shy teenager, is appointed to Buckingham Palace as a seamstress for the royal family. She is lucky enough to meet the Prince of Wales and is captivated by his glamour and intensity. But theirs is a doomed love affair and soon Maria's life takes a tragic turn. Torn between passion and integrity, she makes a choice that has devastating consequences .Can a beautiful quilt, discovered many years later reveal the truth behind what happened to Maria?. Codice libro della libreria B9780007480845

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