Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker is a wonderful novel…Jennifer Chiaverini has researched her history well, and writes elegantly and formally. The perspective is third-person and emphasizes the historical and real over image and gossip. The novel paints a broad picture of what it must have been like to live in America during that age, and revisits the lives of the remaining members of the former First Family after the assassination and the election of the 17th President, Andrew Johnson. We learn of the scandals and motives behind the events that ended the long, very dear friendship between Mary Todd Lincoln and Elizabeth Keckley, and also a great deal about the First Lady and the Lincoln children in the years following the President’s death…Any reader interested in President Lincoln, Civil War history, or historical fiction should love this book.
Nuanced… a welcome historical.
— Publishers Weekly
Another in the fascinating Elm [Creek] Quilts series, this title is set during the Civil War, giving readers a look at the Union home front, with rallies, quilts for soldiers, fundraisers and the ladies who make up the Elm Creek Sewing and Quilting Circle… We seldom think beyond the battles and generals, but the story of the home [front] is a compelling one. Although we might know how the big picture turned out, the individual stories presented here are rivetingly new.
Elm Creek Farm is located in a little valley in Pennsylvania, near the town of Water's Ford. Like the towns around it, most people are strong Unionists and the farm was once a stop on the Underground Railroad. Now the townsfolk are getting ready to send their men off to fight. The ladies' sewing circle has organized to send them off in style, with bunting decorating the buildings, a pageant, a parade, and speeches by the mayor and local ministers. Little do they know, but they will need those organizing skills a lot in the next few years. The group is varied — some immigrants, a free black woman, some feminists who believe that would should vote and control property — but they are united in their desire to support the troops.
When letters home describe the lack of supplies and decent food, the ladies rally to quilt blankets and to raise funds for bandages and other necessities. They also must take up the reins of the farms and businesses that the men left behind. Each woman in the circle may have a different strength, but together they are a moving force. And they don't intend to let the town fathers take over their efforts. As the war goes on, and the battles around Gettysburg devastate families and towns, we see the characters of the ladies as windows into the life and times of small-town Northern life.
I enjoyed the way Chiaverini deftly stitched the lives of these two women together. That she chose patchwork and quilting to help tell the story was a special bonus. Tell Sarah and Sylvia I'd quilt with them any day!
— Ami Simms, author of HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR QUILTING STITCH and INVISIBLE APPLIQUE
A couple of surprise openings at the artists' retreat familiarly known as Elm Creek Quilts brings a host of intriguing candidates.
— Library Journal
Set in California during Prohibition, Chiaverini's newest Elm Creek Quilts novel (after The Union Quilters) follows Rosa Diaz Barclay as she flees her abusive, bootlegger husband, John, in search of a better life with her true love, Lars Jorgensen, and a cure for the mysterious disease that's already claimed four of her children, and threatens to kill the others–two of which were fathered by the troubled Lars. Finding work at a now-illegal vineyard in Sonoma Valley, the couple get caught in a web of cops, mobsters, and farmers trying to survive, all the while struggling to care for their kids, iron out their own relationship, and enjoy the region they've come to love. Chiaverini does an excellent job of describing the lush landscapes of California wine country, while simultaneously painting a touching portrait of the difficulties faced by farming families who must tend to one another, as well as the earth. Agent: Maria Massie, Massie Lippincott McQuilkin. (Feb.)
Some of the most compelling characters you'll ever want to meet.
— Green Bay Press-Gazette
The lives of four women and one man are much improved by quilting in the eighth installment of the Elm Creek Quilts series. Elm Creek Quilt Camp, housed in the Pennsylvania manor house belonging to founder Sylvia Compson, is looking for two new instructors to join its family. Out goes the advertisement, and soon a gaggle of quilters respond-the reader is privy to the trials and tribulations of five, each quilter linked by their interview at Elm Creek. First in line is Maggie, who, inspired by a dusty old quilt found at a garage sale, embarks on a lifelong journey to research the quilter's life. Now a quilter herself, as well as lecturer and author, Maggie would be a prestigious addition to Elm Creek-and just in time, as she's about to be downsized from her day job. Karen Wise is next interviewed in an encounter that would make any mother cringe with sympathy. A stay-at-home mom, Karen is feeling restless, inadequate and just plain tired of baby talk all day. Childcare problems arise, forcing Karen to bring the boys along, with alternately hilarious and disastrous results. Anna shows up next, with a plate full of cookies in the shape of quilting blocks. An appropriate gift, for not only is Anna a chef by trade, all of her quilts are depictions of food. Anna's tale focuses on her rotten relationship with boyfriend Gordon, an academic who thinks of her as a lunch lady and her quilting as antiquated woman's work. Russell is the sole male applicant, and much of his experience in the world of quilting is dominated by his feelings of exclusion. Brought to quilting after the death of his wife (in his grief, he finishes her last quilt), Russ becomes an artist, exhibiting his pieces in galleriesand lecturing on technique. Lastly is Gretchen's touching story of a life of hardship and unpaid loyalty, offset by the joy and companionship quilting has brought. Apparently quilting makes the world a better place. Diehard fans may want more than mere cameos from their favorite characters, but overall, a pleasant addition to the series.
— Kirkus Reviews
This redemptive novel beautifully threads together pieces of Sylvia's life story while celebrating the strength of women, sisterhood and friendship. Wrap this one up for a cherished friend
— The Virginian Pilot
Both the historical and contemporary stories are moving, with vivid and sympathetic characters, and they mesh together smoothly and naturally.
— Historical Novel Society