Sunday, May 16

The Master Quilter - Jennifer Chiaverini

When Sylvia Compton wed Andrew in a quiet service on New Year's Eve, without the fanfare they'd planned, the Elm Creek Quilters feel cheated of their opportunity to show their founder how much she meant to them. That is until they have the brilliant idea of making her a wedding quilt, with pieces from quilting friends and students past and present. The Quilters secretly send out letters to everyone on their mailing list and Sylvia's address book, inviting them to contribute a block in green, rose, cream, gold and/or blue cotton, in a pattern that reflects "how Sylvia had influenced you as an artist, teacher, or friend." Their plan is that the incoming blocks, which they hope with approximate a hundred and forty, into a queen-sized memory and tribute.
The Quilters expect that life will get in the way of creation for at least some of their potential contributors. They don't expect the same to be true for themselves. But as each member of the group tries to work on her own block - selecting the most appropriate pattern, seekinga out the perfect fabric - her life intrudes. As relationships shift, financial pressures mount, and the tensions between the want and expectations of loved ones war with the artists' own needs, creating their pieces becomes harder work than any of them anticipated.
Chiaverini's characteristic elements are present - her women are strong, intelligent, focused but flawed, coloured by their experiences and with lives sometimes unexamined. She interweaves social commentary with the plot, creating an unobtrusive but strong message. For example, she presents the male domination of academia, as Gwen is passed by for department chair in favour of a woman whose work concentrates on topics more 'hard and substantial' than quilting, while countering the claim with evidence that quilts are both art and relevant to social historians.
And when Summer, who has accepted her mother's attitude about relationships and self-worth without examination, she hides the changing status of her latest relationship, Chiaverini beautifully depicts the tension between private thought and public display.
I'm pacing myself a little better with this series than with my devouring of Ms Shinn's work, but it's a struggle. And now I know an author I can turn to when I need writing that soothes, satisfies, challenges and engages. - 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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