The Dressmaker came to my attention as it was recently made into a movie and a coworker gave me the book as she was finished with it. I’ve been sitting on it for a while and finally got to it and wow! It blew me away! The book follows Tilly Dunnage, who suddenly returns to her small home town in country Australia to care for her crazy mother. No one knows why she has suddenly returned and few are happy to have her back, until her skills as a dressmaker are revealed. As with all country towns a dark secret surrounds her and her initial disappearance from town.
The story started well enough, it seemed like your typical country town with all the narrow minded residents more interesting in gossip and scheming to out do each other than anything else. Growing up in a smaller country town myself I could identify with these situations and could appreciate the hilarity in their self-important ways. There are quite a few characters in the novel and initially it was a little difficult keeping track of who was who but over the course of the novel each becomes quite distinct and endearing (or irritating) in their own way. I quickly grew to love more than a few for their unique and loveable qualities, in particular Sergeant Farrat and Teddy. Then there are the characters you just love to hate and some of them do you really hate.
Then suddenly two-thirds of the way through, when things were going so well (silly me, should have seen it coming) the book left me reeling. It broke my heat a little, actually a lot. The story has a tragic edge to it that was hard to imagine when things were all light and silly in the first part of it. The sadness that occurs will leave you broken-hearted feeling for Tilly. Ham manages to keep the lightness of the book going with little bursts of karma and a dramatic finale. The book had me going right up until the end and left me a speechless for a few minutes after finishing the final pages.
I found this book snuck up on my heart quite quickly and unexpectedly. There are some beautiful, endearing characters and the plot is much richer than you might initially imagine. I find myself wanting to go out and immediately watch the movie, if only to see a visual representation of all the beautiful outfits Tilly creates, not to mention the great actors and actresses that were cast in it. I give The Dressmaker four of Tilly’s stunning dresses.