The Dressmaker

The Dressmaker

Book - 2015
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A darkly satirical novel of love, revenge, and 1950s haute couture-- After twenty years spent mastering the art of dressmaking at couture houses in Paris, Tilly Dunnage returns to the small Australian town she was banished from as a child. She plans only to check on her ailing mother and leave. But Tilly decides to stay, and though she is still an outcast, her lush, exquisite dresses prove irresistible to the prim women of Dungatar. Through her fashion business, her friendship with Sergeant Farrat--the town's only policeman, who harbors an unusual passion for fabrics--and a budding romance with Teddy, the local football star whose family is almost as reviled as hers, she finds a measure of grudging acceptance. But as her dresses begin to arouse competition and envy in town, causing old resentments to surface, it becomes clear that Tilly's mind is set on a darker design: exacting revenge on those who wronged her, in the most spectacular fashion.
Publisher: New York, New York : Penguin Books, 2015
Copyright Date: c2000
ISBN: 9780143129066
0143129066
Branch Call Number: FIC
Characteristics: 275 pages ; 20 cm

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goddessbeth
Feb 14, 2019

This story is ultimately satisfying (though it hits some dark spots along the way). I enjoyed that it was harsh in description of the townspeople (all but two of which are terrible human beings) and lush in description of clothing and fabric. Someone described it to me as Australian Gothic, and it really fits (classic gothic, not supernatural gothic). There were parts that were difficult to read due to subject matter (did I mention the townspeople are garbage humans?), but the ending made it all worth it.

To say that Myrtle (“Tilly”) Dunnage had a traumatic childhood would be an understatement. At the age of ten, Tilly is accused of a serious crime and as a result – taken away from her single mother and evicted from the village of Dungatar, the only world she has ever known.

Twenty years later, to everyone’s astonishment, Tilly Dunnage re-enters the lives of Dungatar villagers. On her return, Tilly finds her mother, Molly, to be half mad from all those years of sorrow, loneliness, and poverty; the rest of the village and its residents remain almost unchanged except for the fact that everyone grew up or aged. There is much resentment, hate, and fear directed toward Tilly and her mother. However, Tilly is not a Cinderella type of a girl that would cry away in an attic waiting for some magical intervention; she is quite a character and that combined with her acquired skills in clothing design and sewing – make her a revolutionary ready to ignite some change. Armed with a Singer sewing machine, Tilly transforms people and the world around her. Myrtle Dunnage instigates a fashion revolution in Dungatar which is closely accompanied by revenge directed at those who did her wrong.

Rosalie Ham did a terrific job depicting a little village and its residents, as well as the major background– Australia in 1950s.

Supplement the book with the movie starring Kate Winslet as Tilly Dunnage. Costumes and actors’ play are definitely worth watching (Submitted by Mariya).

d
DominiqueRossier
Sep 08, 2018

The first part of the book is good: interesting, entertaining, puzzling. The end is a bit of a disappointment: it's overdone and I personally am not able to "analyze" what the author might have wanted to convey. The //s between her plot and the play her characters are rehearsing should lead us somewhere but it is not "finished". Good read anyway.

JCLCherylMY May 09, 2017

I read the book and watched the movie. I enjoyed the movie very much -- fun, quirky, over the top Aussie characters and great actors all around. Dressmaker Tilly returns to Dungatar after a childhood banishment to care for her ailing mother, Mad Molly. Exacting her revenge and recovering lost memories kept me engaged in both the novel and the movie. The makers of the movie varied from the plot of the book a little bit and morphed several characters together but kept the essence and feel of the book intact. The book is much darker in nature, especially the second half and the ending. I enjoyed watching the movie and seeing Ham's characters come to life, especially her beautiful couture creations.

a
AlteredStaite
Apr 19, 2017

Gentle, quick, pleasant light reading. Definitely chic lit.

r
RbeccaL
Mar 10, 2017

I expected to like this book and was disappointed that I didn't. I like a good revenge plot but adding tragedy just didn't work for me.

v
vashonbookgrazer
Mar 03, 2017

I was really enjoying the book at first. I loved the fact that Tilly returned to her small hometown with an unusual skill. I was really rooting for her, hoping for a show of imagination and talent that would bring the town around. I was not expecting the extreme revenge scenarios and the death of her love interest. The downward spiral of the town, and Tilly, did nothing to support my belief in the positive ability of humans to rise above their situations and make the world a better place. It is stories like this that leave us filled with fear and hate. No matter how well it is written or how fully realized the characters are, if you want a story to do more then just entertain, there needs to be people and characters that you can admire and look up to. One of the only characters that I found redeemable was the cross-dressing police officer.

p
PearlyKayAm1
Dec 07, 2016

No imagination when it came to naming the villagers. Juvenile plot, no real tension anywhere. Waited the whole book for the revenge part and it made no sense when it came. This book was not worth the time it took to read.

k
kathihess
Oct 09, 2016

Saw film today. It is wonderful. Especially Judy Davis, star of many previous Aussie films (My Brilliant Career among many.) Can't wait to read the book; hope it is just as good. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

k
kate4joy
Mar 01, 2016

I loved reading this book and look forward to the movie. A delicious combination of light, love and dark dark dark. The author has demonstrated a mastery of balancing voice, tone and color that make it hard to put down.
One criticism: It is hard to track who is who as we are given names of the villagers but little else to distinguish one from another. Collectively they may represent the many faces of our humanity, its dark side, as it shows up in our social collective.

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