Saturday, May 14, 2011

Review: The Dressmaker by Posie Graeme-Evans

469 Pages
Genre: Adult, Historical Fiction
Published in October 2010
Bought it

From international bestselling author Posie Graeme-Evans comes the passionate tale of a woman ahead of her time.
Ellen Gowan is the only surviving child of a scholarly village minister and a charming girl disowned by her family when she married for love. Growing up in rural Norfolk, Ellen's childhood was poor but blessed with affection. Resilience, spirit, and one great talent will carry her far from such humble beginnings. In time, she will become the witty, celebrated, and very beautiful Madame Ellen, dressmaker to the nobility of England, the Great Six Hundred.

Yet Ellen has secrets. At fifteen she falls for Raoul de Valentin, the dangerous descendant of French aristocrats. Raoul marries Ellen for her brilliance as a designer but abandons his wife when she becomes pregnant. Determined that she and her daughter will survive, Ellen begins her long climb to success. Toiling first in a clothing sweat shop, she later opens her own salon in fashionable Berkeley Square though she tells the world – and her daughter - she's a widow. One single dress, a ballgown created for the enigmatic Countess of Hawksmoor, the leader of London society, transforms Ellen's fortunes, and as the years pass, business thrives. But then Raoul de Valentin returns and threatens to destroy all that Ellen has achieved.
In The Dressmaker, the romance of Jane Austen, the social commentary of Charles Dickens and the very contemporary voice of Posie Graeme-Evans combine to plunge the reader deep into the opulent, sinister world of teeming Victorian England. And if the beautiful Madame Ellen is not quite what she seems, the strength of her will sees her through to the truth, and love, at last.

Posie-Graeme Evans is yet another great Australian author to grace my bookshelf with exceptional writing. The atmosphere and descriptions were breath-taking and the story line was original and believable. This book was a fantastic mixture of Victorian atmosphere and modern sophisticated writing which allowed me to understand the novel whilst it still having that authentic victorian feel.

For those who enjoy films like 'Marie Antoinette' and 'The Devil Wears Prada' - purely because of the aesthetic feel - 'The Dressmaker' will be the book of choice. One of the great things about the story was that unlike the movies mentioned the plot does not revolve around themes or subjects of vanity and selfishness. This is one thing I enjoy in aesthetically pleasing books and movies because I don't think it's fair how some of these beautiful images produced in the media have been used to criticize consumerism and create a feeling of guilt in the readers/viewers purely for liking something beautiful.

I also liked how the book didn't focus entirely on the character's dress making business and how the character     had family and friends as well as a career. The character reminded me a lot of Coco Chanel in  'Coco Avant Chanel' (the film) besides the fact that she had this support group. Some typical themes that did occasionally show their head though were those regarding  the balance between life and work. 

The growth of the characters throughout the novel  contributed greatly to the story itself as it prevented against repetition that you get in other novels where there are recurring problems of the same nature. I really enjoyed how the main character 'Ellen' had chances to do things with her life as well as losses, but wasn't overwhelmed with tragedy which I have seen in so many other novels. It is through the deaths and new lives that grow or perish in the novel that we can see a theme of reincarnation occur. Each new child is given the name of a dead family member which I know is very old-fashioned, but in this story was slightly less conventional and felt like a method of coping with grief. I'm not sure exactly how I felt about that, but I thought it was a little confusing and can imagine it would be hard for the family in the story to adjust.

A lot of people have been complaining that the novel was perhaps too dramatic. I think this is more of a sense of how people carried on in that time. People I think are more adapt to forgiveness in modern day times than what they were in the victorian era and I don't think they understand the hardships as well because of the difference in circumstances and customs. Also the beginning of the novel does seem a little over-dramatic, but makes more sense after you have read further into the novel.

Overall 'The Dressmaker' was a beautiful piece of historical fiction both inside and out. Posie Graeme-Evans has created a beautiful atmosphere for her characters to grow and learn. I gave this book a 5/5 rating and marked it as a favorite. I recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys an aesthetic indulgence in a story or is looking for something a little different or unconventional.

Also by Posie Graeme-Evans:
-The Anne Trilogy
      The Innocent, The Exiled and The Beloved

Interesting Fact about the author:
-She created and Produced Australian Television Show 'McCleod's Daughters"

I recommend: 
-Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
-Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
-Pearl in A Cage by Joy Dettman

Amazon Recommends:
-A Vintage Affair by Isobel Wolff
-Juliet by Anne Fortier
-Sarah's Key by Tatianna de Rosnay

So sorry that I didn't get this review up earlier. 
Your Favourite Cynical Blogger

1 comment:

Ms. McKellips said...

Sounds great! I think I'll give that a go.