“Travellers crossing the wheat-yellow plains of Dungatar would first notice a dark blot shimmering at the edge of the flatness.”
I came across The Dressmaker at a bookstore and its premise really caught my attention. Tilly Dunnage returns to the small Australian town where she grew up after twenty years in order to take care of her mother. During her time away she studied dressmaking at couture houses in Europe and the women of Dungatar fall in love with Tilly’s designs, and Tilly fulfills their wishes. As she settles back into life in Dungatar, the unpleasantness of her past there and the people in general starts to creep in. After an incident brings the past and old feelings to the surface, Tilly is set on revenge.
The concept of The Dressmaker is really intriguing and the use of dressmaking and couture presents itself as a fun and unique twist. Unfortunately, the story overall just does not work for me. There are a lot of characters introduced at the beginning through short little sections and I struggled to follow all of them. The stories about the townspeople feel random and disjointed. Their purpose appears to be to give us insight into how terrible these people are but after a while it starts to feel repetitive and never-ending. Surprisingly, very little time is spent on Tilly and as a result we don’t get to know her very well and she comes across as a very flat and bland character.
The book is ultimately about a miserable town full of miserable people. With Tilly being almost an absent main character, there is very little to hold on to or even to motivate to continue with the story such as it is. It has been made into a movie starring Kate Winslet and Liam Hemsworth, and I’m curious as to how it has been translated to the big screen. While I love the idea of The Dressmaker, it definitely falls short.