The Girl on the Wall - One Life's Rich Tapestry by Jean Baggott and published by Icon Books.
Growing up in West Bromwich in the 1940s and denied the chance to take up her place at grammar school, Jean Baggott is now seventy two and in the final year of a history degree at Warwick University. It was the tentative revelation of her tapestry to one of her tutors that led to this book.
Inspired by the ornate plasterwork ceiling in the Billiard Room at Burghley House in Lincolnshire, this is the culmination of sixteen months (yes, just sixteen months....would be sixteen years here) of stitching and Jean's very own Bayeux; a remarkable and unique visual representation of her life, memories and associations in all their astonishing and intricate detail and it really is the most stunning work of art.
Alongside each little time capsule Jean has written an accompanying chapter by way of explanation which effectively reads as a social history of her life and our times. Several of the seventy-three capsules are personal and Jean has chosen not to elaborate on them but many more are of huge relevance to all our lives and shared. Then there are the little mysteries, the ones that feel like a door onto a forgotten world which Jean explains, and in doing so prompted more memories of my own.
The writing style is knowledgeable yet unpretentious and with an intimacy that reveals Jean to be a wonderful raconteur as I discovered yesterday afternoon.
Having picked up the book as Bookhound went out and me thinking half-heartedly 'I'll do some ironing in a minute' I was still rooted to the seat when he came back a few hours later, and a hundred pages of engrossed reading and looking had happened without me realising.
It's a weighty book which always suggests high production values and Icon really have done a very special job with this one but it's a book that seriously merits this attention to detail; wonderful paper quality (you can smell good paper a mile away can't you) and beautiful colour photos throughout. A large poster of the tapestry (though still not actual size) came with the book and I've pored over it for hours and another smaller one folds out from the back.
So much to see, always something new each time I look and clearly a lifetime of personal memories captured and preserved and all from a fascinating point of view.
You see I didn't know that the nation's children were, as of one, surprised when Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip announced an impending Royal birth and you'll chuckle as I did when you discover that they all thought Prince Philip had no 'naughty bits', and read the book to find out quite how that reliable news had filtered its way down to young Jean and her friends.
It's a book to inspire as well and though I couldn't get the website link to work yesterday I understand there are tips from Jean on there about stitching your own needlework memories. I'm heartened to see Jean doing all this in her seventies (deo volente I have just a bit of time to go) and I'm likewise embarrassed to send you here to see one of my very unfinished offerings which Quilt Inspirations asked if they could use in a feature on Attic Windows. Jean inspires me with hope and inspiration, whilst the season and Lyndall Gordon's book give me a much needed prompt to finish that Emily Dickinson wall hanging, The Inundation of Spring Enlarges Every Soul.
In the meantime I did find this on youtube, so it's my absolute pleasure to introduce Jean, her very special and beautiful tapestry and her wonderful book to you and now, please excuse me while I get back to reading.