Reviews

The Quilter's Apprentice, by Jennifer Chiaverini

kate_can's review

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emotional lighthearted relaxing slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.0

For a novel with quilting at its centre, this is as homey and heart-warming as you would expect. It features friendships, family, forgiveness, sisters and sisterhood, supported by a wealth of detail about making quilts that those who do will doubtless find fascinating. Taking disparate scraps and piecing them together into a whole is an obvious metaphor for storytelling: in quilting the stitches that bind the fabric together are best if they are nearly invisible. Unfortunately the working is quite clear in this novel as some of the dialogue is clunky, and the scenarios are often unrealistic. 
Sarah and Matt move to a new town for his job as a landscape architect. Matt works for an irascible client, Mrs Compson, at Elm Creek Manor restoring the grounds to their former glory while Sarah reluctantly takes up a position indoors, helping with the cleaning and taking lessons from Mrs Compson (an awarded quilter) in return. Sarah is a trained accountant but she is bored with the work. The characters are privileged, middle-class and comfortable, and Sarah’s complaints certainly seem petty. 
Mrs Compson plans to sell Elm Creek Manor, but when Sarah and Matt discover that the intended buyer wants to tear it down and build student accommodation, they are appalled and try to think of a way to save it. The focus is on conserving and preserving rather than progressing and assisting potential students with their future living arrangements. 
Looking to make friends, Sarah joins a quilting circle, befriending the other women, although they clearly have reservations about Mrs Compson. They welcome Sarah into their group and help her practice, supporting the individual tutoring she has with Mrs Compson, expanding upon the techniques of the craft. They discuss different stitching methods; there are arguments over the preference between hand and machine stitching; and the skills required to undertake different tasks, with a level of detail that might be skimmed by those not interested in the minutiae. The history of quilting is mentioned, as are individual patterns with their specific meanings. 
There is a highly unrealistic conversation about craft being viewed unfavourably compared with art as it is considered women’s work, which raises some valid points, although the dialogue is stilted and deeply unlikely. 
Sarah appreciates her newfound female friendships, and learns about Mrs Compson’s past through the older woman’s reminisces and reflections of life. She looks to Mrs Compson as a substitute mother-figure, while acknowledging her complicated relationship with her own mother. This dynamic is left unresolved – perhaps for the next novel; this is clearly positioned as the first in a series. 
The theme returns to the purpose of making quilts, whether as a practical hobby and a leisure activity or an art form to be rewarded. Chiaverini argues that the value of a quilt is more holistic. Craft as empowerment is not a new theme, but it is one that this novel embraces warmly bringing gentle comfort. 

crafalsk264's review

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emotional informative relaxing slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.5

I was in the mood for a good story without dark forbidding protagonists, gloomy houses, guns, murder, and mayhem. So I thought that this one would be just right. I had previously read a couple of books in the Elm Creek Quilters series so I was curious about the first book of the series.

Sarah and Matt McClure move to Waterford so that Matt could take a job with an architectural landscaping company. Sarah has been an accountant but she hopes to find a different job here. Her search is not going well, so she takes a temporary job with the owner of the house where Matt is working to bring the neglected gardens of Elm Creek Manor back to life. Sarah’s job is to help the owner, Sylvia Compson, to clear away 50 years of clutter so the house can be listed for sale. Part of her agreement about the job is that Sylvia, a master quilt maker, will teach her to quilt.

This book has several things that usually make a story attractive to me: warm, loving friendships or family, beautiful descriptions of a grand house and gardens, and a historical time slip for a background story. This one also includes a specialized art, quilting. Through her lessons with Mrs. Compson and her Thursday night meetings with the Tangled Thread Quilters, information on quilting is blended into the narrative. The solution to all their problems is to turn Elm Creek Manor into Elm Creek Quilts and offer quilting retreats and instruction. I enjoyed this book and will probably read through some of the rest of the series, the true indication that the book is a hit.

leecalliope's review

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This is a very cozy book. The parts abt job hunting via mailed-out resumes and car phones were very funny to me. The format of quilt blocks and flashbacks was a little? Samey to me, but maybe it was more novel at the time of publication. Read this one very quickly + enjoyed it just fine.

raggedymom's review against another edition

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3.0

A good read. I enjoyed learning about quilting and the flashbacks. The arguments between the young couple were a bit sophomoric for my taste but I'm hooked!

javalette's review against another edition

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3.0

The main character reminded me so much of my friend, Lisa G., I could hardly believe it! Nice story, overall good chick-lit.

ravenhaymond's review against another edition

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3.0

This was a fun light read with a storyline that kept me reading and characters that I enjoyed reading about. I appreciated how clean it was (no language, etc.) and I loved learning about the quilts and the quilting community--makes me want to learn how to quilt! It reads quickly and I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

martinhope19's review against another edition

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5.0

This book is so heartwarming and beautiful with a perfect mix of sass, love, friendship, and history. Ironically, I picked this book up randomly off a bookstore’s shelf, loved it and decided to look it up on Goodreads. Surprise! I’d already read it once before. Haha the reread was wonderful, and now I must continue the series!

briannaw's review against another edition

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4.0

I liked this book, the information about quilting was interesting, I am going to have to go online for actual pictures of the patterns mentioned in the book since I couldn't visualize them very well from the descriptions.
The main character and her job search reminded me of my own job search, especially the ridiculous grocery store question. The thing that I liked the most about this book though was that it reminded me of my Grandma who quilted and watching her work.

lindz's review against another edition

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5.0

This was a well thought book to read. It about a Old woman and her home a bit along with quilting. We find out some things about Mrs. Compson. We also learn about her family history a bit and Elm Creek Manor. It quite a sweet story.

If you decide to pick this book up and start reading you will finding out the family history of Elm Creek Manor. Sarah is hired to be a personal assistant to help clean up the Manor. Matt is in charge of the restoration of the Manor.

This book is about forming friendships, relationships and quilting. You will be amazed by what all in the this book and what is about.

elkcariboubiologist's review against another edition

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4.0

quick, easy read for travel...enjoyed this book and will most likely continue with the series.