Friday, March 5

The Quilter's Apprentice - Jennifer Chiaverini

Sarah McClure was frustrated by her inability to get work in any field but accounting - regardless of what position she went for, as soon as they saw "CPA" on her résumé that was all they were interested in hiring her for. Despite that, having a job was a plus, but her husband Matt was clearly growing increasingly frustrated by his inability to find any kind of suitable work. And so they moved to the far smaller town of Waterford, Pennsylvania.
Unable to find any work at all, Sarah takes on a temporary position for the cantankerous owner of Elm Creek Manner, a dilapidated stately home that Matt has been contracted to landscape prior to sale. Though Sylvia Compton is cantankerous and unpleasant, Sarah soon finds she has a complex story. Long estranged from her younger sister, Sylvia has only returned to Waterford to sort out her sister's estate. The town has painful memories, and being reminded of long ago pains has brought them back as vividly as though they were recent rather than decades old.
This delightful novel, the first in what has become a substantial series, has quilting at its centre and, like a quilt, takes fragments from a multitude of sources, creating a beautiful and warming whole. And that's enough of that metaphor. It's true to say, though, that this is one of those novels that left me with a deep sense of satisfaction - there's resolution, but there are enough loose threads hanging for verisimilitude (and it didn't read as though they were left in order to write a sequel). The writing is compassionate, evocative and somehow very female.
And this is without doubt a book for women - the scope is domestic and woman-centred, focusing on the interests, preoccupations and growth of a number of well drawn female characters. Men certainly appear, and are even important, but it is the strength, fortitude and determination of the women that carry the narrative.
i don't quilt - I can barely sew on buttons - but even though I didn't know the patterns or even some of the fabrics, the detailed descriptions of stitching, battening and composing embraced me rather than allowing me to feel excluded through lack of knowledge. And this inclusive feeling is a key component of the novel, which also9 discusses the nature of quilting groups - welcoming, inclusive and embracing. Though there are, as we discover, exceptions.
I was so taken with The Quilter's Apprentice that I've already borrowed the second in the series. - Alex

The Elm Creek Quilt series:
1. The Quilter's Apprentice
2. Round Robin
3. The Cross-Country Quilters
The Runaway Quilt
5. The Quilter's Legacy
The Master Quilter
7. The Sugar Camp Quilt
8. The Christmas Quilt
9. Circle of Quilters
10. The Quilter's Homecoming
11. The New Year's Quilt
12. The Winding Ways Quilt
13. The Quilter's Kitchen

14. The Lost Quilter
15. A Quilter's Holiday
16. The Aloha Quilt

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