In the height of WWII in Britain, everyone was expected to do their part to support the Nazi defeat in Europe. The war fundamentally and permanently changed England’s social hierarchy. Germany’s Blitz on Europe didn’t distinguish between upper and lower class citizens as all people regardless of status had to share bomb shelters, and people were left figuring out their new roles in the reorganized ladder of society.
When Cressida Westcott’s upscale apartment and fashion design office were destroyed by a Nazi air raid in downtown London, she is forced to find a temporary residence in the countryside at her family’s manor. As the black sheep of the family who refused to conform to her family’s traditional expectations, Cressida knew she was less than welcome to stay at the manor while her brother was alive; however, his recent death means that the manor is now under the management of Hugh, her nephew who splits his time between his landlord duties in the country and a political career in London. Violet, her niece who is fully invested in the old way of life that honors English nobility and prides itself on royal bloodlines and strategic marriages, is more than happy to have her chic aunt stay with them. During her stay, Violet introduces Cressida to Grace, a simple girl who is the vicar’s daughter and is engaged to a clergyman ten years her senior, and the rest of the local sewing circle which is made of a group of women who find comfort and camaraderie during their weekly meetings where they do their patriotic duty by sewing and repurposing old clothes to accommodate the fabric and clothes rations imposed during the war. Grace’s impending nuptials prompt her to search for and find her deceased mother’s wedding dress which, to her disappointment, was disintegrating due to years of moths feasting on it in the attic. As they, along with the rest of the sewing circle members, commit to working on the wedding dress to prepare for the big day, Cressida, Violet, and Grace, respectively, embark on a personal journey toward self-discovery as they each navigate their way through this unprecedented time in history. Through their unique and individual experiences, they each realize that the only things of which they can be certain are life’s uncertainties.
Why I read it: My Book of the Month pick
Trigger warnings: N/A
This book was enlightening, inspiring, and encouraging. I truly enjoyed it!
The title is what drew me in to the book and why it was my Book of the Month choice. When I stayed with my grandparents for a week in the summer, I would go to my grandma’s church on Tuesdays where she would gather with a group of women (all about the same age) and they would quilt together. My grandpa affectionately called it, “The little old lady’s sewing circle.” Every time I picked up the book and would absently read the title, it would just make me smile at that memory. Books where you have an immediate and personal connection, even if it’s just in the title, are treasured and special.
I loved the characters, and I thought the author did a great job developing them through telling the story in alternating points of view. The flow of the story was logical and gave an appropriate amount of attention to each of the events that shape the characters’ transformations. Even though it was slightly predictable, I thought it was entertaining, and I was drawn into the story from the very beginning.
This book reminded me so much of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Aside from the period and setting (England, World War II), both books feature a community within a community that is struggling to find normalcy and moments of joy amid a dark and uncertain time in history. The book also reminded me of the Downton Abbey series in that it bore witness to a shift in thinking and reorganization of priorities that equalized the playing field among members of different societal groups.