Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Released: May 6, 2014
Source: Review copy from publisher
Rating: ★★★★★

It is 1910 and Maria, a talented young girl from the East end of London, is employed to work as a seamstress for the royal family. As an attractive girl, she soon catches the eye of the Prince of Wales and she in turn is captivated by his glamour and intensity.

But careless talk causes trouble and soon Maria’s life takes a far darker turn. Disbelieved and dismissed she is thrown into a mental asylum, shut away from the real world with only her needlework for company.

Can a beautiful quilt, discovered many years later, reveal the truth behind what happened to Maria?

“I stitched my love into this quilt,

sewn it neatly, proud and true. 
Though you have gone, I must live on,
and this will hold me close to you.”

This sweet poem was embroidered into the stunning patchwork quilt that Caroline Meadows inherited from her grandmother. The fine silk for the center piece, woven through with silver thread, was a clue that this quilt was something extraordinary. Each section seems to have a special meaning, a story the seamstress held dear. But who was she? With few leads to go on, Caroline sets out to unravel the mystery of the quilt’s origin, and what she finds is shocking.

Entwined with Caroline’s story is an interview with a woman named Maria, taken from cassette tapes recorded in 1970. Maria’s tale was heartbreaking as she recounted her decades in an asylum called Helena Hall. She claims to have been a seamstress for the royal family during the 1910s, but was unjustly diagnosed as crazy and locked away when she caused problems. It was despicable the way Maria was treated, and hers was an eye-opening account of what happened to many “troublesome” women who were committed to mental institutions to be silenced.

This is the first book by Liz Trenow I’ve read, and I absolutely loved it! She has an engaging writing style that flowed smoothly and was a joy to read. I enjoyed how the past and present were threaded together until finally the truth behind the quilt is revealed. This book was sad in parts, but at the same time there was hopefulness and humor. Both Caroline and Maria were compelling characters, and Maria especially had a huge personality in spite of everything she went through. THE FORGOTTEN SEAMSTRESS was a wonderful book with memorable characters and brilliant descriptions of quilts and quilt-making. Highly recommended!

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.