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The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham

The Dressmaker

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"Sometime in the 1950s, Tilly Dunnage, a Paris couturier, returns to her home town of Dungatar in rural Australia, having left under a black cloud of vicious accusations when she was a child. She plans only to visit her tragically mad mother, but ends up staying longer than planned.

"Ostracised at first, her extraordinary dressmaking skills seduce the locals, who all want a piece of her glamour, and she begins to wonder if she could make a home again in Dungatar after all. But small towns are strange places and her popularity doesn't last long. When the eccentric townsfolk turn on her for a second time, she sets out to teach them a lesson, and exact the revenge she's always felt she deserved."

The Dressmaker is a well-written book reflecting the small-mindedness of a small town in Australia in the 1950s. It is very descriptive and we particularly enjoyed the details on fabrics and descriptions of clothes.

The main story is a tragic one that develops slowly, but humour shines through the sadness. There are so many characters that it was hard to remember who was married to whom and work out relationships. Nonetheless, there are some lovely and outrageous characters whose exchanges are very amusing. Tilly and her mother's conversations especially made us laugh out loud! We all liked and admired how Tilly remained pleasant, professional and polite despite how others behaved towards her.

We discussed the hypocrisy of the town's residents, their hostility towards people they did not accept due to illegitimacy or difference, and how travel and different experiences change people. Tilly was the one who got away, yet returned to find that the narrow-minded townspeople had not forgiven her.

The Dressmaker is a good, multilayered read that blends humour and sadness.