Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Quilter's Legacy by Jennifer Chiaverini

The fifth book in the Elm Creek Quilts series following on from The Runaway Quilt.

Readers of Jennifer Chiaverini's popular and engaging Elm Creek Quilts series are treated in each successive volume to storytelling that expertly weaves the joys and intricacies of history, quilting, and family ties. In The Quilter's Legacy, a daughter's search for her mother's treasured heirlooms illuminates life in Manhattan and rural Pennsylvania at the turn of the last century.

When precious heirloom quilts hand-stitched by her mother turn up missing from the attic of Elm Creek Manor, Sylvia Bergstrom Compson resolves to find them. From scant resources -- journal entries, receipts, and her own fading memories -- she pieces together clues, then queries quilting friends from around the world. When dozens of leads arrive via the Internet, Sylvia and her fiancé, Andrew, embark on a nationwide investigation of antiques shops and quilt museums.

Sylvia's quest leads her to unexpected places, where offers of assistance are not always what they seem. As the search continues, revelations surface about her mother, Eleanor Lockwood, who died in 1930, when Sylvia was only a child. Burdened with poor health and distant parents, Eleanor Lockwood defied her family by marrying for love. Far from her Manhattan home, she embraced her new life among the Bergstroms -- but although warmth and affection surrounded Eleanor at last, the Bergstroms could not escape the tragedies of their times.

As Sylvia recovers some of the missing quilts and accepts others as lost forever, she reflects on the woman her mother was and mourns the woman she never knew. For every daughter who has yearned to know the untold story of her mother's life, and for every mother who has longed to be heard, The Quilter's Legacy will resonate with heartfelt honesty as it reveals what tenuous connections bind the generations and celebrates the love that sustains them.

For the first time since I started reading this series I wasn't drawn into the book straight away! In fact I started to read it, put it down, and didn't pick it up for the next couple of months! When I finally did pick it up again, it once again took a little bit of time to become engaged in the book, but once I was there it was a good read.

Whereas in the last book, Chiaverini looked at the stories of Sylvia Bergstrom Compson's grandparents, this time she is a generation closer - focusing on Sylvia's mother story. Eleanor Lockwood was a sheltered young woman. Due to her ill health Eleanor's parents would not allow her to live life to the full, instead Eleanor believes that she is fated to live a life at home looking after her parents as they get older.

Using some of the major events of the early 1900's as touchstones (including the suffragette movement, World War I and the sinking of the Titanic), we meet the people who shaped Eleanor into the woman that she was.

Interwoven with the stories of Sylvia's mother is the story of Sylvia's search for the quilts that her mother had lovingly made, but that were sold or given away during Sylvia's time away from Elm Creek. The other plotline that is explored is the opposition of Andrew's family once Sylvia and Andrew's engagement is announced. I was glad to see that the author didn't wrap all the various plotlines up so neatly as to be predictable. I would say though that this book was a bit heavier on the amount of detail included about various quilts, designs and patterns. Whilst for quilters that read the series that may be interesting, personally I want to get on with the story, particularly the relationships between the various characters.

Overall, this wasn't as good as some of the earlier books in the series, particularly the last book, but once I was drawn into the story it was well worth the effort.

Rating 3.5/5

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