MrsK's Seasoned Reader Picks

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini

Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker
ISBN: 9780142180358
Publisher's Synopsis:
In a life that spanned nearly a century and witnessed some of the most momentous events in American history, Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley was born a slave. A gifted seamstress, she earned her freedom by the skill of her needle, and won the friendship of First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln by her devotion. A sweeping historical novel, Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker illuminates the extraordinary relationship the two women shared, beginning in the hallowed halls of the White House during the trials of the Civil War and enduring almost, but not quite, to the end of Mrs. Lincoln’s days.

"On the day of the presidential election of 1860
she was eager to be safely indoors well before curfew."
MrsK's Review:
Elizabeth is a dressmaker for the District of Columbia's socially and politically elite. After years of saving, she has purchased freedom for her and her son George. She has become an independent business woman with an admirable reputation. She hopes that the new first lady will have a "taste for finery," in which she will be called upon to create her fashions.

Over the years, Elizabeth becomes not only a dressmaker for Mrs. Lincoln. She will be the one to tend to Mrs. Lincoln's outings and she will be the one that helps Mrs. Lincoln in those transitional days after the assassination. She will be instrumental in helping Mrs. Lincoln "transform the White House into a showplace worthy of our nation." This story is about Elizabeth and her grit, compassion, and determination to walk through those white house days as a support person for the first lady. 

Beyond her talent and attention to detail, Elizabeth will prove her loyalty with gracious dignity. She becomes a coveted mantua in which the Washington elite will "rush to place their orders." 

 "She had never known another man with such nobility of soul and greatness of heart..."

Elizabeth's story is expertly crafted. Historical fiction must accurately portray facts, yet there must be a voice that enables the reader the possibility to walk with the historical characters. Our book club did just that. We had discussions beyond Elizabeth and Mrs. Lincoln. We were left hungry for additional works by Jennifer. We checked into other primary sources about this time period. We shared Elizabeth's writings (Behind the Scenes). We are inspired to know more...
"Her greatest legacy could not be measured in garments or in words,
but in the wisdom she had imparted,
in the lives made better because she had touched them."
A remarkable read for any book club...Booked to Dine book choice.        
Added to my shelf!

For more information about Elizabeth, click here.
Meet the Author:
Jennifer Chiaverini  Jennifer Chiaverini is the New York Times bestselling author of several acclaimed historical novels and the beloved Elm Creek Quilts series, as well as six collections of quilt patterns inspired by her books. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame and the University of Chicago, she lives with her husband and two sons in Madison, Wisconsin. About her historical fiction, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes, "In addition to simply being fascinating stories, these novels go a long way in capturing the texture of life for women, rich and poor, black and white, in those perilous years."

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