Author: Deborah Gaal
In The Dream Stitcher, Deborah Gaal stretches the limits of our imagination when she recounts the story of Goldye Finkelstein who possessed the power to sew dreams into reality. Goldye is also the reincarnation of Queen Mathilda of Flanders who was Queen of England and Duchess of Normandy by marriage to William the Conqueror who lived in the eleventh century.
Author: Deborah Gaal
In The Dream Stitcher,
Deborah Gaal stretches the limits of our imagination when she
recounts the story of Goldye Finkelstein who possessed the power to
sew dreams into reality. Goldye is also the reincarnation of Queen
Mathilda of Flanders who was Queen of England and Duchess of Normandy
by marriage to William the Conqueror who lived in the eleventh
century. According to French legend, Queen Mathilda commissioned and
created the famous tapestry, La Tapisserie de Bayeux (The Bayeux
Tapestry) which depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest
of England concerning William, Duke of Normandy, and Harold, Earl of
Wessex, later King of England, and culminating in the Battle of
Hastings. It is thought to date to the 11th century, within a few
years after the battle and recounts the story of the conquering
As the story unfolds, we learn that Queen Mathilda was quite adept at sewing and at directing others to fashion her creations into thread. In 1923 the Queen decided that she must come back to life as the soon to be born daughter of a young talented Polish seamstress, Alenka Kaminski. Unfortunately, both mother and child die in childbirth and Mathilda, who longs to inhabit the earth once again, enters the body of another baby girl born to a Jewish woman who is named Goldye. Thus begins Gaal's yarn.
Gaal's uses two time frames and places, California in 2008 and Poland during World War ll at the time of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. In Poland, we read about Goldye Finkelstein growing up and becoming an apprentice to a kind Polish widower, Jan Kaminski (Alenka's husband), owner of Kaminski's Fine Fabrics. Jan hires her and teaches her to embroider magical, beautiful dream designs on wedding dresses for his well-off Polish customers. Goldye becomes very much in demand as the dreams she sews are directed by her imaginary friend, Mathilda, who, from time-to-time, she calls upon to help her in her work. Goldye also imagines where all the people of Warsaw are sewing a collective dream into reality, where Jews and Poles alike could imagine hope, sew it and make it come true.
Another character, Lev Berlinski enters the story, whose mother was Jewish and his father, Catholic. He is a member of both the Polish Liberation as well as the Jewish Fighting organization and is one of the fighters which planned The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Lev and Goldye fall in love and Lev convinces Goldye to use her artistic skills to aid the liberation cause. This leads to her sewing a symbol, a hummingbird with a nest of eggs and a nest of candy. It was a code; the hummingbird meant urgency and the eggs were grenades. When the Poles and Jews saw the symbols, energy emerged. They knew they must raise money for arms and the people rushed to give money to the Jews for the uprising as well as for the Polish revolt against the Nazis.
As the yarn shifts to California, we read about Maude Wasserman, her daughter Rosie and Maude's mother, Bea, who lives in her own world with Alzheimer. Maud knows very little about her ancestors and has no idea who was her father.
Astonishingly, one day Maude discovers a replica of the Tapisserie de Bayeux which was stitched by her mother Bea, who, incidentally never sewed in her life.
It is difficult to convey the full flavor of this great feast of a novel which is an intriguing blend of thriller, history, love, war, magic, deception, and tragedy all wrapped together in a neat package with an unexpected ending. What gives its pleasures is the author's skillful narrative pacing and the tight lacing of the book's surprises. And her storytelling gifts are very much confirmed thanks to expertly voiced narration and a masterly evocation of time as well as place which keeps one reading as she imaginatively expands on a variety of themes like a jazz soloist.
It should be mentioned, as we are informed in the novel's bibliography, that in addition to some of the history of The Bayeux Tapestry, this work of fiction was inspired by the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the main characters are an homage to the brave freedom fighters in this battle, whose stories deserved to be remembered.