This post is part of the TLC tour for Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker. I received a copy of the book free for an honest review. I’m giving away my review copy. Enter for your chance to win it or two other great prizes here!
Book: Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker
Author: Jennifer Chiaverini
Genre: Historical fiction
Morality Rating: G
Readability Rating: 5 stars
Buy it: Amazon
Jennifer Chiaverini is the author of the New York Times bestselling Elm Creek Quilts series, as well as five collections of quilt projects inspired by the novels. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame and the University of Chicago, she lives with her husband and sons in Madison, Wisconsin.
Connect with Jennifer on her website,elmcreek.net, and on Twitter @jchiaverini.
Jennifer Chiaverini departs from her New York Times bestselling Elm Creek Quilts series to debut her first stand-alone novel, MRS. LINCOLN’S DRESSMAKER. This compelling historical novel unveils the private lives of the Lincolns from the time of their rise to White House glory, through the President’s shocking assassination and its tumultuous aftermath, until the end of Mary Todd Lincoln’s troubled life—all told from the perspective of the First Lady’s most trusted confidante and friend, her dressmaker Elizabeth Keckley.
The Lincolns have been immortalized in countless works, but Keckley’s story has really been told only once—and that was in her own controversial memoir, published in 1868. Meticulously researched as well as highly imaginative, MRS. LINCOLN’S DRESSMAKER brings an all but forgotten piece of history back to life.
Born into slavery, Elizabeth Keckley earned freedom for herself and her son by the skill of her needle. She moved to Washington, DC, where she quickly made a name for herself as the city’s most talented dressmaker. It didn’t take long for Washington’s political and social elite to take notice of her intricate designs, flawless needlework, and the flattering fit of her dresses. After moving into the White House, Mrs. Lincoln called upon Keckley to be her personal modiste—but she soon became much more. A devoted friend, Keckley supported Mrs. Lincoln through political scandal, the loss of a child, her husband’s assassination, and her eventual descent into poverty.
Chiaverini is no stranger to creating poignant and relatable historical fiction; her long-standing Elm Creek Quilts series has hit the New York Times bestseller list fourteen times. She is often praised for her ability to create complex characters and powerful story lines that bring history to life in her novels.
An engaging story of strength and perseverance, MRS. LINCOLN’S DRESSMAKER illuminates the remarkable friendship between a First Lady and an extraordinary freedwoman.
I haven’t read any of Ms. Chiaverini’s quilt series, but if they are half as good as this book, then I should probably buy them all right now. I loved this historical peak into the personal lives of the Lincolns that didn’t necessarily paint Mary as a crazy lady.
Plot: The plot of this story follows Elizabeth through the Civil War and throughout her life- almost to her death. I was saddened by how the story ended up, but in real life, we usually don’t get happy endings.
Characters: Most, if not all, of the characters in this book were based on actual people. Tons of research went into this book, and you can tell from the dialogue, the character accuracies that align with other stories about the same people, and what kind of events happen to the characters in the book.
Setting: Much of this story takes place in Washington, when Elizabeth was working for the Lincoln’s during their time in the White House. Not a whole lot of time was spend setting the scene, but somehow, the setting details filled in on their own in the reader’s imagination.
Writing: I thought the writing in this book was excellent. Far beyond most stories that I have read recently. It had its own particular style, which I liked. You could definitely see the nod to older literature and phrasings without the book feeling stuffy like it was a book written during the Civil War. I thought Ms. Chiaverini did an excellent job of placing her story in context of the period. Some historical novels have a modern view on events, but those inconsistencies were avoided in this story.
If you like historical fiction, you will love this book. When I was younger, I went through a phase where the Civil War was all I thought about. The Killer Angels series was one of my favorites back then. This book is even better than those.