In 1942, Cressida Westcott, a celebrated fashion designer, finds herself homeless after her London house and business are destroyed in the Blitz. With nowhere to turn, she heads to the country village of Aldhurst and her family manor, which she left long ago after choosing a life of independence rather than a restricted one of duty. She is welcomed by her niece Violet and nephew Hugh. While Violet is excited to meet her famous aunt, she is preoccupied with marrying a man with a title and Hugh has inherited his late father’s rigidness. The local vicar’s daughter Grace is preparing to wed another vicar and is hoping to repair her mother’s badly damaged white wedding gown. Once Cressida meets the women of the local sewing circle, she not only helps Grace with her dress but she is able to bring a new unity and sense of purpose to the group. They band together to create a wedding gown exchange enabling women to have the wedding of their dreams during a period of severe rationing. Together Cressida, Violet and Grace, three very different women, learn more about themselves and the possibilities that could lie ahead including finding true love.
While set during the height of World War II, Jennifer Ryan’s appealing book is about community and helping one another during a time of hardship and sacrifice. While the threat of bombs and death are all around, this is a book that celebrates the human spirit. The story of the wedding gown exchange is based on an actual wartime effort that spread across England. I have enjoyed reading all of the author’s books (including The Chilbury Ladies' Choir) as they are filled with spirited women full of gumption and resilience. The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle is a charming, uplifting story. A nice change from some of the heavier, gut-wrenching wartime novels I also read.
Many thanks to Ballantine Books – Random House Publishing Group for the opportunity to read this book in advance of its release.
Rated 4 out of 5 stars.
Publication Date: May 31, 2022.
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