Hello to Liz Trenow and the blog tour for her new novel, The Dressmaker of Draper’s Lane.
As a foundling who rose from poverty and now runs her own successful dressmaking business in the heart of society London, Miss Charlotte is a remarkable woman, admired by many. She has no need, nor desire, to marry. The people she values most are her friend Anna, her recently-found sister Louisa and nephew Peter.
She feels herself fortunate, and should be content with what she has. But something is missing.
A small piece of rare silk discovered in a bundle of scraps at auction triggers a curious sense of familiarity, and prompts her to unpick a past filled with extraordinary secrets and revelations . . .
To celebrate publication day, Liz has shared an extract with us today.
***** beginning of extract*****
She is unaware of her legs moving beneath her, of one foot taking a step and then another, except for the fact that the great gates in the distance seem to be drawing ever closer.
Her mind is blank. She keeps her eyes lowered to the ground, passing silently through the crowds on Gray’s Inn Road like a spectre. No one notices her and she dares not allow herself to look at her surroundings nor even to think, for if she did she would surely turn and flee. The only notion in her head is that where she is going offers the sole hope of saving her child’s life.
The bundle in her arms is still and silent now, having ceased whimpering some hours ago. The baby is too feeble to cry any more. It is of no matter to her that she has not eaten for several days except that it has caused her milk to become thin and weak.
This child is the single most precious thing she has ever known. How can she bear to give her up? Yet how can she bear to let her die?
At first the solution seemed simple. She would end both of their lives together, so they could never be parted. Sev¬eral times she has returned to Blackfriars Bridge, watching the dark, cold waters swirling below and trying to summon the courage to jump. But first she must climb onto the parapet, which means freeing her hands by laying down the bundle on the edge of the bridge, and even this momentary separation seems too dangerous to contemplate. What if the child should slip into the river without her?
Who would hold her tight as she fell, whispering reassurances that although the water would be cold and the journey difficult, everything would be fine when they reached the other side? Would she even have the courage to follow her?
Each time she has left the bridge feeling foolish and tearful, trudging the weary path back to the city, still no clearer about what the future might hold.
Until they told her about the Foundling Hospital. It’s a place just opened up, where they will look after babies until their mothers can go back for them, they said.
Now she is aware of passing a long brick wall to her right-hand side and a building, the gatehouse, flanked by two brick sentry boxes. A man gives her a cursory glance and nods her through. She emerges onto a wide gravelled driveway with well-trimmed lawns either side. In the far distance, or so it seems to her, is what looks like a palace; a vast building of many windows, more than she can count. Two wings of this building reach towards her and, as she walks, start to surround her like a funnel drawing her inexorably towards her fate.
Ahead is surely the main entrance, although it looks more like a temple than a home for children. Leading up to it is a wide set of steps on which, as she now approaches, she can see gathered a group of figures, maybe a couple of dozen; bedraggled, bewildered women, their faces hidden by shawls, all carrying bundles in their arms. Women like herself.
***** end of extract*****
Liz is a former journalist who spent fifteen years on regional and national newspapers, and on BBC radio and television news, before turning her hand to fiction. She lives in East Anglia, UK, with her artist husband, and they have two grown up daughters.
Her previous novels include The Last Telegram, The Silk Weaver (The Hidden Thread in the US), The Forgotten Seamstress and The Poppy Factory.
The Dressmaker of Draper’s Lane has been released today (21st February) by Pan and is available in most bookshops and online. Click to view on Amazon UK.