Book Club Resources
Here are some resources I hope you find useful in planning your book club’s discussion of The Gown. I’ve included a text-only version as well as larger downloadable PDFs for the images here that you are welcome to print out and distribute to your friends. I hope you have a wonderful time and thank you for choosing The Gown for your book club!
- How would you have reacted to the news of the royal wedding in 1947?
- How do you think you would have coped with the difficulties of the post-war period?
- If you could snap your fingers and become a princess, with all of the duties and obligations and relentless attention that such a position entails, would you do it?
- Why do you think Ann made a clean break with her past? Why did she never attempt to contact Miriam? Would you have done the same?
- Can you close your eyes and picture Miriam’s Vél d’Hiv embroideries? What do they look like to you?
- If you had a chance to stand in Ann’s shoes, would you tell your daughter or granddaughter the truth about your life?
- Was Heather right to persevere in uncovering the secrets of Ann’s past?
- Do you think it’s possible to accurately depict the life of a public figure who is still alive? And what do you think it must be like to be that public figure, and to know that strangers are reading about or watching the story of your life? Would it upset you, or would you find it entertaining to see what novelists and filmmakers get wrong—and what they get right?
- Daniel has lines from a poem by Wilfred Owen tattooed on his arm. What poem or quote would appear on your tattoo (or on a tee-shirt if you’d rather not make such a permanent gesture)?
- What is your favorite iconic wedding gown – it doesn’t have to have been worn by a royal bride – and why?
Grand-Mère’s Friday-Night Chicken
My mother made a version of this in the 1970s; I have updated it with ingredients that are readily available today, if not necessarily to cooks of 1947. This is the dish that came to mind when I tried to think of something that Miriam would have made, and though it is far from authentic in its origins, it is delicious and relatively easy to make.
8 chicken thighs, skin-on and bone-in, about 3-1/2 to 4 pounds
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
1 medium orange
1 cup green olives. pitted
1/2 cup dry white wine or dry (white) vermouth
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F.
Using a vegetable peeler, zest the orange in long strips; aim for 8 strips of zest with no white showing. Once zest is removed, halve the orange and juice. You’ll need 2 tablespoons juice in total; set aside zest and juice. Crush the fennel seeds in a mortar and pestle or with the flat bottom of a drinking glass. Set aside.
Trim excess fat and skin from chicken thighs. Pat the chicken dry and season generously with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch oven-safe skillet, ideally cast iron, over medium-high heat. (See below if you don’t have an oven-safe skillet.) Add the chicken to the skillet (in batches, if necessary) skin side down and cook until skin is well browned, about 6-8 minutes.
Tilt the skillet and spoon off all but one tablespoon of the fat. Turn the chicken skin side up, sprinkle the prunes, olives and fennel seed around and over the pieces, and tuck the strips of orange zest in where you can. Pour the orange juice and wine or vermouth over everything and sprinkle with an additional 1/2 teaspoon pepper. (If you don’t have an oven-safe skillet, transfer the browned chicken to a casserole dish, pour off excess fat, scrape remaining drippings into casserole dish, and proceed with remaining ingredients.)
Transfer the skillet or casserole dish to the oven and roast until cooked through (chicken should have an internal temperature of 165°F), about 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes. Serve with fresh bread and a green salad.