Publication Date: 2000
Publisher: Duffy and Snellgrove
Genres: Literary Fiction
The Dressmaker follows Tilly, a dressmaker, who returns to her small, tight-knit country town of Dungatar, where she grew up when she was younger. She reunites with her mother – otherwise known as ‘Mad Molly’ – and stays to look after her.
Tilly interacts with many other characters that she used to know, but many still loathe her for an incident linked to her that occurred when she was a child. Tilly begins a relationship with her neighbour Teddy, the star footballer of Dungatar, and starts to make dresses for women within her community.
What I enjoyed about the writing was that it was fast-paced and seemed to give a unique insight into the Australian culture of a small town. I am from the suburbs of Victoria, so could visualise some of the places that were mentioned.
Unfortunately, I found this novel difficult to read. It took me approximately three weeks to read, which is a clear sign of me disliking a book. There were many characters to keep track of, and when I finally learned of who someone was, they seemed to disappear from the plot. This was also shown by the narrative occasionally using different perspectives and only using a character’s perspective – besides Tilly’s – once or twice.
The characters were also unlikeable. There was little character development and I could not get a good sense of who was who, considering the number of people present in the plot.
I liked the idea and themes of the novel, but not the execution. It was well-written, but had so many things going on that I often did not understand the events transpiring. I loved the idea of Tilly having a reason to despise those around her, which was something that kept me reading, and the end was satisfying.
I recommend this book to fans of Australian literature and to those who enjoyed the 2015 film.