Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Last Telegram by Liz Trenow

Paperback: 354 pages
Genre:  Fiction
Publisher: Avon, September 2012.
Source: Tywyn Public Library

First Sentences: 'Perhaps because death leaves so little to say, funeral guests seem to take refuge in platitudes.' He had a good innings ... Splendid send-off ... Very moving service ... Such beautiful flowers ... You are so wonderfully brave, Lilly.'
Review Quote: 'An evocative and engaging novel for fans of ' The Postmistress and Suite Francaise from back cover of paperback.
My Opinion: An enthralling read.

I had picked this book up at the local library as it sounded like a good read, when the very next day I came across an excellent newspaper article about how Liz Trenow got inspiration from her family background in the silk weaving industry. It is a fascinating article and inspired me to start reading the book at once and what an enthralling read it is. The historical setting in a silk mill during the Second World War is captivating and along with the romance and intrigue of the story, one also gains a fascinating insight into the history and production of silk. 

Narrated in the first person by the heroine of the tale Lily Verner, it is easy to immerse yourself in her story. Feeling emotional and with many things to think about Lily is at her husband's funeral as the novel opens. A week later whilst with her granddaughter, they come across something, which along with Emily telling her grandmother of her plans to do a parachute jump, triggers memories.  She drifts back to those long ago days and tells us the story of how thanks to the imminent start of WWII all her plans change and she finds herself unexpectedly working in the family silk factory. Life at the factory turns out to be far more inspiring than Lily had expected, also somewhat harrowing thanks to the war, although there is love amongst the sadness. 

In summary if you are looking for a romantic read that has plenty of poignancy and emotion then I think this is one you will enjoy.

Author Profile

Liz Trenow's family have been silk weavers for nearly three hundred years and she was born and brought up in a house next to the family silk mill. Her father and later her brother, went to work each day at the mill, silk therefore played a large part in her early life, though at the time she did not really appreciate this fact.

As a student she did a range of holiday jobs in the mill but, like Lily in The Last Telegram, the business held no real romance for her. What she really wanted was to become a journalist so, after a few years teaching skiing in Canada, she became one. Working in news and features for local and regional newspapers, as a news journalist for local radio and regional television, also at BBC Broadcasting House and Television Centre, before leaving to work in PR which had much more family-friendly working hours!  She now lives in Essex with her sculptor husband, and has two grown-up daughters.
The silk company has a long and distinguished history which had never been recorded, so I started to research it with the intention of writing a book, but work, marriage and family took precedence in my life and the research languished in a file. As her parents reached their eighties, she realised there might not be much time left, so started recording conversations with them, individually and together, about their extraordinary lives. During one of these conversations, her father mentioned that during the Second World War what kept the mill going were contracts to weave silk for parachutes, surgical dressings (silk has amazing antiseptic properties) and electrical insulation (plastic had not been invented). He also told me how tricky it had been getting the porosity of the fabric just right for parachutes. It was after learning these facts that the idea for a novel was born, but it was only after retiring from full-time work and taking an obtaining an MA in Creative Writing at City University London that she actually started writing her début novel 'The Last Telegram'

Photographs and biographical information courtesy of the following sites.

Express - My family of silk weavers inspired me    Amazon Author Profile   Liz Trenow - Official Author Website    


  1. I wonder how do you come across such wonderful books with great cover pictures.

    I liked the idea of the book!
    Please can you add some excerpts that you liked, if possible.

    I am confused in this sentence: My father and later her brother, went to work each day at the mill, silk therefore played a large part in her early life, though at the time she did not really appreciate this fact.

    1. Divenita, you know what they say about never judging a book by its cover, well I can still never resist an attractive one. Thanks for pointing out my 'deliberate' error, just joking, no wonder you were confused it should read 'Her'
      I am sorry I cannot add any more quotes as I have returned the book to the library and would need to refer to it to do so. May be you would be interested in reading some other reviews, for which I include a link.

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  4. I bought this one recently and I'm really looking forward to it, I'm glad you enjoyed it LindyLou.


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