Book review: Get cozy with this uplifting tale of WWII-era sewing circle | Entertainment

Jennifer Ryan has carved her own niche in the genre of WWII historical fiction. She highlights small yet meaningful efforts by the women in English villages who find ways to make impactful contributions while displaying strength, courage and ingenuity. “The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle” has now joined her other novels, including “The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir” and “The Kitchen Front.”

Cressida Westcott left the village of Aldhurst to pursue a successful career as a fashion designer, but it came to a sudden stop when her home and design house are demolished during a bombing of London, so she reluctantly returns to the family home for what she hopes will be a brief stay. Her niece, Violet, is thrilled to have her aunt home, but finds herself with a conscription letter that will interfere with her search for an aristocratic husband. Violet decides to sign up for the ATS, which is quite a shock to her sensibilities. Grace Carlisle, the vicar’s daughter, has accepted a proposal from an older vicar and is planning a wedding.

When Cressida joins the local sewing circle and Grace arrives with her mother’s badly damaged wedding gown looking for ideas to salvage it, the inspiration begins. Soon the group is seeking more wedding gowns to mend and remake using the idea of the already existing Make Do and Mend program. The program is so popular that they are lending gowns not only within their village, but to women in the military and all over England.

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The members are women from all parts of the societal structure, and as they share their ideas and love with each other, they break down many of the existing barriers between the classes in England at that time.

Ryan’s characters are charming, amusing, annoying and frustrating. The narrative is a delightful read with real history woven in seamlessly. It might be described as cozy historical fiction, a perfect read for a reader looking for something to lift their spirits.

Sandy Mahaffey is former Book editor with The Free Lance–Star.

Sandy Mahaffey is former Book editor with The Free Lance–Star.