Two women separated by centuries, the threads of their lives drawn together by one beautiful silk dress
Textiles historian Jo Baaker is drawn back to the Dutch island where she was born to investigate the provenance of a valuable seventeenth-century silk dress retrieved from a sunken shipwreck. Her research leads her to Anna Tesseltje, a poor Amsterdam laundress who served on the fringes of the Dutch court.
But how did Anna come to possess such a precious dress? Jo is determined to trace the threads and find out, all while battling with professional egos and personal demons.
My thoughts: I studied material culture as part of my MA so this really appealed to me academically as well as a reader of historical fiction. The things people leave behind them can tell us so much. The beautiful dress found in a shipwreck off Texel tells the story of Anna.
Once a merchant’s daughter, she’s reduced to doing other people’s laundry when the opportunity comes to be companion to a female artist – Catherina. And to love, a freedom she didn’t know she could have and then to tragedy. Her mother’s dress, silk with intricate embroidery outlives her and textile historian Jo carefully teases out Anna’s life story.
Both Anna and Jo are determined women in world’s dominated by men – for Anna the obnoxious Maarten, for Jo her so-called colleague Liam. But both are clever and capable and use all their resources (and in Anna’s case, a storm) to prove their worth.
I really enjoyed this book with its slip back and forth between the two narratives, hundreds of years apart, the insight into the Dutch court that Anna gets was interesting and the lives of the modern islanders was too. A fascinating and informative story of two women, ordinary but in their own way extremely remarkable too.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.