Princess Elizabeth’s wedding gown was one of the most talked-about outfits of 1947, and a novel about the making of this historic dress has just won a literary award. The Gown by Jennifer Robson was announced as one of the winners of the fifth annual Canadian Jewish Literary Awards.
The book, which is being honoured in the fiction category, tells the story of the women behind the future Queen’s wedding gown amidst the backdrop of post-WWII London. It’s told from the points of view of Ann Hughes, a young woman working in Norman Hartwell’s fashion house, and Miriam Dassin, a Holocaust survivor and talented embroiderer who leaves France to seek out new opportunities in London. The novel also weaves in the story of Ann’s granddaughter in 2016 after she discovers a piece of embroidery from the wedding gown kept by her late grandmother.
Robson said during an interview on the We’ll Never Be Royal podcast that she felt more comfortable writing from the point of view of fictional characters rather than creating a novel told by Princess Elizabeth herself.
“There was part of me that was very reluctant to even try because I feel The Queen has spent her entire life in the spotlight,” Robson said. “And I do have a lot of respect and affection for her. And it just seemed somehow I didn’t want to be another one of these intrusive people trying to push my way past the door into her private world. I didn’t think I could pull it off for starters, but I also felt like I shouldn’t even try.”
“I think as much as shows like The Crown are very entertaining … there’s a certain amount of poetic license being taken. And that kind of poetic license where you’re taking the lives of real people and maybe stretching the truth a little bit makes me, as a creator, a little bit uncomfortable.”
The Canadian Jewish Literary Awards “recognises and rewards the finest Canadian Jewish writing” and has eight categories, including fiction, memoir, biography, history, children/youth, Yiddish, scholarship, and Holocaust.