Book review: The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham


I’ve been reading, reading, reading lately and haven’t gotten around to reviewing anything, so I thought I’d better remedy that.

A lot of people would have heard of ‘The Dressmaker’ as it was a hugely successful Aussie film in 2015; Kate Winslet, Judy Davis, Liam Hemsworth and Hugo Weaving are just a few of the names you should recognise who starred in the movie. I’ve been told by my lovely librarian that as she watched it, more and more recognisable Australian actors kept popping up in it, and that it was great to see them all in the one spot.

The book by the same name that this movie is based on was written by Rosalie Ham in 2000, and to be honest, until the movie starting making splash waves I hadn’t heard of the book before. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean anything, as I was busy crying under my desk with my curtain drawn across my cubicle as I tried to ward off homesickness in my first year of boarding school (I got over myself soon enough, so don’t worry. It was then all about what movies to watch on the weekends and walking to the shops, feeling mighty grown up). Anyway, back to the book.

This book did make waves at the time, unbeknownst to me, as found on Rosalie’s website:

Finalist, State Library of Victoria’s Most Popular Novel (2007)
Shortlisted, The Christina Stead Prize for Fiction (2001)
Shortlisted, Book of the Year Award – Booksellers Association (2001)
Featured, CAE Book Club List
Prescribed, VCE Literature List
Bestseller, The Age Fiction List

And so what did I think of this novel? I loved it. So completely different to anything else that I have read (much how I felt about the ‘Language of Flowers’, it was thoroughly original also), it follows Myrtle Dunnage as she hops off the bus in her home town of Dungatar, to look after her mother Molly who has slowly become more and more unhinged as the years passed.

Tilly and mad Molly have been shunned by many in the town, for reasons that will become clear throughout the book. There are a very small number of people who quietly helped mad Molly while her daughter was busy living overseas training and working as an expert dressmaker; and a few who are happy to befriend her once she comes back.

Every character in this book has their own quirky elements, making each and every one a very unique personality. While it is slightly hard to believe that there could be so many peculiar people in the one town (but then again, do we truly know others, and what goes on behind closed doors?), it makes for a very enjoyable read to see how each of them interact with each other and react to the crazy situations that constantly crop up. And so, while I haven’t seen the movie yet, I intend to, as I’d love to see the characters brought to life.

Have you read ‘The Dressmaker’? Did you enjoy it?

Have you seen the movie? What did you think?

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