Published by Headline
Publication date – 6 August 2020
Source – review copy
To unravel that long-lost summer, she had to follow the thread…
Florence Connelly is broken hearted. Her marriage has collapsed under the weight of the loss she shares with her husband, and her beloved grandmother has just died. Even the joy she found in dressmaking is gone.
But things change when Flo opens a box of vintage 1960s dress patterns found inside her grandmother’s wardrobe. Inside each pattern packet is a fabric swatch, a postcard from Europe and a photograph of a mysterious young woman, Nancy Moon, wearing the hand-made dress.
Flo discovers that Nancy was a distant relation who took the boat train to Paris in 1962 and never returned. With no one to stay home for, Flo decides to follow Nancy’s thread. She unravels an untold story of love and loss in her family’s past. And begins to stitch the pieces of her own life back together.
Florence Connelly’s grandmother, the person who raised her when her mother wouldn’t, has just died. Her marriage to Seamus seems to be at an end and she finds herself drifting, unable to moor herself in a safe harbour. Then she finds old sewing patterns in her grandmother’s wardrobe. In each are fabric swatches and photographs of a woman, who Flo discovers is Nancy Moon. But why did her grandmother never mention Nancy and what became of the young woman in the photos? Flo decides to piece together the mystery and follow in Nancy’s footsteps.
The story moves between the present day, starting from when Flo buries her grandmother, then back in time to Nancy, following her as she goes from London and her family then moves to Paris to be with strangers. Each chapter alternates between the two women, rounding out the story.
It is easy to envisage the era Nancy lives in, the fashions depicted, the hair styles and the scenes all evoke a somewhat romantic air, obviously aided by the locations Nancy (and Flo) travel to. There are society parties and boat trips, money displayed openly, or the pretense of money that was so well executed by party goers.
As the story progresses the reader finds out more about Nancy and her reasons for leaving her family behind, never to return. The truth emerges to the reader just before it does to Flo, who we see make little false assumptions that she has to figure out in order to put the missing pieces into place.
There is a common thread through the story, one which ties Flo and Nancy together from the beginning. That is a love of sewing. It is clear that both characters found comfort in creating something new with only a pattern, pins, material and a sewing machine. It is where their hearts lie and is the key to helping them discover more about themselves.
The journey following Nancy Moon is one which helps focus Flo, who feels adrift at the breakdown of her marriage and the grief she feels from the loss of her baby. As Flo follows in Nancy’s footsteps it allows her to assess her life and realise what she truly wants.
The reader is pulled along through the story, wanting to find out more about Nancy, just as Flo does. Yes, she could just ask her grandmother’s friends, but if she had, Flo wouldn’t have gone on her own journey of self-discovery.
There are no big reveals, hair-raising moments or perilous scenes. There is no need for them. This is a gentle, meandering story. The reason for Nancy’s disappearance becomes clear to the reader early on in the novel but that does not lessen the enjoyment.
An interesting read, I’ll look for more books from Sarah Steele in the future.
This was book 8 in my 20 Books of Summer 2020 challenge.