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The Dressmaker

3.45  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,255 Ratings  ·  403 Reviews
A darkly satirical novel of love, revenge, and 1950s haute couture—soon to be a major motion picture starring Kate Winslet and Liam Hemsworth

After twenty years spent mastering the art of dressmaking at couture houses in Paris, Tilly Dunnage returns to the small Australian town she was banished from as a child. She plans only to check on her ailing mother and leave. But Til
Paperback, 296 pages
Published 2000 by Duffy and Snellgrove
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Sep 10, 2015 Sophie rated it did not like it
After twenty years, Tilly Dunnage returns to Dungatar, the small Australian town she grew up in, to visit her ill mother. Returning brings up memories of her unhappy childhood and the tragic accident which resulted in her leaving Dungatar as a child. Trained as a dressmaker at the couture houses of Paris, Tilly's beautiful gowns entice the prim and judgemental women of Dungatar and she becomes grudgingly accepted, until another accident causes the townspeople to turn on her.

The thing I disliked
Dec 20, 2015 TL rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to TL by: Random chance on, gift from my secret santa :)
2.5 stars

Loved the idea but not the execution... it was hard to keep track of all the characters sometimes and they weren't portrayed in a flattering way. An air of prejudice and bitterness hangs over alot of the town and it made me want to shake the people there.

The plot moved slowly but methodically... it had its interesting points but most of the time it was blah. I don't mind slow moving books most times but this one was painfully slow.

I did like Tilly but it was hard to understand her at t
Oct 06, 2014 Carole rated it it was amazing
What a delicious book! I loved the dark humour of this Australian novel. The characters in the small down of Dungatar are so awful that you just have to love them. I loved the writing, the links with fabric, fashion and sewing, and could picture it all in detail. I'm sure I read this with a permanent smile on my face and I didn't want it to end. Highly recommended.
Amanda Mae
An interesting book for sure. I was initially intrigued about it when I learned Kate Winslet and a Hemsworth were going to be in the film adaptation. But I really hope the film changes some aspects of the story because when I got to a certain plot point I wanted to throw the book across the room I was so upset!

I love the idea of this awful little Australian town and all its oddball characters that Tilly returns to. But I struggled to follow all the characters and understand Tilly's motivations
Feb 27, 2013 Rose rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
what a hoot! what a period piece! it's a slice of 1950s country town Australia. which makes it a slice of pavlova. you'll slap the laminex table in mirth. you'll settle back with a shandy in the banana lounge and chuckle your way through it. the descriptions of the gowns are divine! particularly one number that the author assures us "flattered her fridge like form". the humour may be lost on the foreigners, so proceed with caution if you're not from the antipodes...
Jan 03, 2013 Jesse rated it did not like it
I really did not enjoy this novel.
I found the characters clichéd and one-dimensional; parodies of themselves.
The prose was cringe-worthy at times and unremarkable at others.
The references to 1950s Australian brands were nice for me as an Australian to recognise, but nothing more.
Rosalie Ham appears to me, an un-fashion aware person, to know her stuff when it comes to dresses and dressmaking. Unfortunately, this does not translate to an enjoyable book.
Nov 18, 2015 Linda rated it really liked it
Wow, I love this book! It has so many things that I like about it, ie. it's an Australian story which beautifully evokes the central Victorian countryside in which it is set; it is a great yarn, it's imaginative, darkly funny, enthralling and just so darn satisfying; I highly recommend it to anyone whether you've seen the film or not. I read the book after seeing the film and am glad I did it in that order because inevitably changes must be made in bringing a book to the screen and while the fil ...more
Jennifer (JC-S)
‘Travellers crossing the wheat-yellow plains to Dungatar would first notice a dark blot shimmering at the edge of the flatness.’

Myrtle ‘Tilly’ Dunnage returns to Dungatar (a fictional small Australian town) after an absence of twenty years. Nothing much seems to have changed in the town – Tilly and her mother ‘Mad Molly’ are regarded as outcasts – but her mother is ill and Tilly stays to care for her. During her absence, Tilly trained as an expert dressmaker in Paris, and the garments she makes
Jul 26, 2014 Helen rated it it was ok
Two and a half stars. An interesting premise, of a young woman returning to her small home town to look after her aging mother after leaving in disgrace a number of years before, and using her high couture dress-making skills to win over and transform the wardrobes and lives of the local townspeople.

The setting, a rural wheat belt town in Australia in 1950, was brought to life very well, and the description of the dressmaker's fashion creations were lovely. However the cast of characters in the
Jan 17, 2014 Zoe rated it it was ok
Shelves: school-books
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I had to stop in the middle of this, partly because the story was unpleasant but mostly because it was confusing. Ham had too many characters, too many time lines, and too much insanity going on in the plot.

Tilly, raised an outcast and abused by everyone, comes home to her Australian outback town, a successful dressmaker. Her mother, the town whore, has gone so crazy you wonder why no one's locked the old bat up in an asylum. Anything would be better than the filth she's living in now. Tilly daz
Esperava muito mais deste livro. As personagens sao-nos apresentadas aos "bochechos" e sem grande desenvolvimento, tipo toma la uma, e agora mais outra, e outra... A historia é confusa e as tantas já não percebemos que esta a falar.
Espero que este seja uma das raras excepções em que o filme é melhor que o livro.
Sep 10, 2015 Emily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Throughout this book I kept thinking "this is like Chocolat, but with dresses...".
Dec 11, 2015 Christine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015-reads
Twenty years ago, following a tragic incident, Tilly Dunnage was sent away from Dungatar the small rural Australian village where she grew up. She spent the time wisely learning the art of couture dressmaking. Now, on the heels of another tragedy, she has returned home only to find that most things have not changed; the townsfolk still hate her, her mother has seemingly slipped further into senility and they are still considered the outcasts. But the one thing that is different? Tilly now has a ...more
Nina {ᴡᴏʀᴅs ᴀɴᴅ ᴡᴀᴛᴇʀ}
You know, I didn't give this a favourably rating, but it's not because I didn't like it. It's rather, at the time when I read it, even though I read it as an English [not lit, but compulsory yr 11 reading list subject] book, I was a little disappointed. I suppose at the time I was still learning to separate two classes of books and further broaden my reading list. It was the year after I started really delving into YA too, so my mind was a little muddled about what I liked and didn't like about ...more
Oct 09, 2013 Caitlin rated it really liked it
Shelves: australian
I can't really explain what made me pick this book up - I've been starting a lot of books recently and nothing's really inspired me to keep reading - however this story really got me out of a lull.

It's the story of a young woman who returns to a claustrophobic Australian town to care for an unstable and unpleasant mother, and a terrible-horrible-deep-dark-secret is just begging to be gradually revealed, through bits of flashbacks and the harsh judgments of the country town's people, who don't fo
Jan 31, 2016 Gabby rated it really liked it
I'm usually a strict YA reader, however every now and again I don't mind a bit of adult fiction. I give this book 4 stars out of 5 as my only criticism is that I was confused about the story and characters at times. There were so many characters introduced at once that I kept forgetting who was who and what their relationship was with other characters. This also made the story confusing at times.

However, I still found the book overall interesting. I fell in love with Tilly and her story and her
The cast was overwhelmingly large and, even having finished it, I'm still having a hard time getting everyone straight. Ms. Ham's attempt at memorable characters was a letdown and, instead, every person in this book was a complete caricature: there's the frumpy spinster, the highbrow mother-in-law, the crossdressing sheriff. By the end of the book, there's an odd veer into a town production of a Shakespeare play and a baffling moment when Tilly gets her revenge that left me scratching my head. W ...more
Jan 23, 2016 Hermien rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: australian
I didn't know what to make of this book at first. There was some slapstick falling face down in cream spunge kind of humour and then suddenly people were breathtakingly nasty. Just when you thought you knew where the story was going there was an unexpected turn. And then, bliss, sweet revenge.
Andrea Devaney
Oct 30, 2015 Andrea Devaney rated it really liked it
Such a dark, funny tale about a Victorian country town filled with scandals and secrets... I love authors that create memorable characters and with all her complexities, Rosalie Ham's leading lady Tilly Dunnage is not easily forgotten.
Dec 22, 2015 Kathy rated it really liked it
Dark humor abounds in this satire about Myrtle (Tilly) Dunnage who returns to her small hometown in Australia after being expelled twenty years prior as a child. The storyline is one with a theme of what goes around comes around, and I was scornfully grinning in the end at the comeuppance. Tilly puts up a strong exterior but is still the little girl who was shunned and viewed as cursed by the town on the inside. She refuses to be anything more than cordial to anyone, but Teddy McSwiney manages t ...more
Jul 26, 2015 Arnellies rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone
I'm a big fan of Kate Winslet but her movies the past few years have been null and void. I think the last movie I was actually interested in was The Holiday since it was more her style than well ahem "cough" the divergent Series "cough". So when I seen the trailer to this movie I immediately got interested because well the style of dresses featured is a favorite era of mine but also I love books that are turned into movies specially ones that have good reviews(I researched before committing to t ...more
Feb 06, 2015 Vivien rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014-fiction
Aussie story enriched with outstanding use of descriptive language. Set in rural Dungatar w central character Myrtle, Tilly, Dunnage returning after some 20 years ASAP professional tailor and dressmaker to reunite with her mother and perhaps her town. Molly her mad mum, who lived on the hill above the town's tip. Mae & Edward McSwiney & their many children in particular their eldest Teddy & Barney who lived on the side of the town's tip. Sergeant Farrat, the town's policeman, confida ...more
Sep 23, 2013 Tamara rated it really liked it
*The dressmaker* - 4 stars

"An Australian gothic novel of love, hate & haute couture".

I sought out this novel after learning a film was to be made, and they were hunting for the perfect location for the Australian country town of Dungatar.

Well this novel contained just about everything. Comedy, tragedy, a small country town with all it's resident idosyncrasies, secrets to be revealed, heartbreak and a "cast of thousands". This novel takes us on the journey of Myrtle "Tilly" Dunnage, returning
Mandy Radley
Oct 31, 2015 Mandy Radley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm not sure quite what I expected with this book but have to say it's one of the funniest stories I've read..

Myrtle Dunnage returns to her home town of Dungatar since being driven out as a child for a incident she was blamed for and which you eventually find out later in the book. She was bullied as a child and the occupants of the small outback town neither liked her or her mother who they now call mad Molly.

She returns home to care for her ageing mother who seems to have slight dementia and
Lorraine Lipman
Oct 22, 2015 Lorraine Lipman rated it it was ok
I didn't really like this book. There were too many characters and not enough character development. There were several interesting 'events' in the storyline and I can see why it was selected to become a movie. I hope that they employed an excellent screenwriter as that person will have had a lot of work to do. I'm expecting the movie to be much better than the book.
Nov 11, 2015 Donna rated it liked it
Original plot idea and characters - a great choice for screen, bring on Kate Winslet and Liam Hemsworth. The plot took me a while to get into with the introduction of so many characters in the first few chapters, the end left me nonplussed. Light entertainment and definitely one I will quickly forget.
Marita Hansen
I'm only writing this because the film upset me. I was really enjoying it then it came to a plot twist that shot the film from a 4 to a 1, with me wishing I'd never seen it :(
Nov 12, 2015 Maggie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely loved this book. There's a dark humour and deep sincerity to Myrtle 'Tilly' Dunnage's story. Rosalie Ham is a fantastic author. I loved everything about it. It's authentic and tasteful and juxtaposed with vulgar humour which every Aussie would cackle at! A book with lots of soul that really stays with you after you read it. Also, check out the film. Kate Winslet and Judy Davis spring off one another so well, and really connect as mother and daughter. A book worth reading and a film ...more
I picked up this book because of the oncoming Kate Winslet movie and I ardently hope that they have done a better work with the characterisation than the one made by Ham in her novel.
I don't know, maybe I've totally misunderstood it because, honestly, I could justify such a strong black-and-white depiction of the life in a small town only in a fairy tale, which makes me think that I've read The Dressmaker from the wrong point of view. The book has actually so many resemblances to a fairy tale -
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Satire Is Ultimately Idealistic: Reflections on Ham's _The Dressmaker_ 1 14 Sep 24, 2015 03:09PM  
Sinopsis en Español // Synopsis in Spanish 1 3 Mar 22, 2015 12:47PM  
  • Grand Days
  • Carpentaria
  • It's Raining in Mango
  • Journey to the Stone Country
  • For Love Alone
  • Capricornia
  • The Life
  • Tall Man: The Death of Doomadgee
  • The Monkey's Mask
  • The World Beneath
  • Poet's Cottage
  • The Golden Age
  • The Fine Colour of Rust
  • Wake in Fright: Filmed as The Outback
  • The Tyranny Of Distance: How Distance Shaped Australia's History
  • Reckoning: A Memoir
  • Golden Boys
  • Eucalyptus
Rosalie Ham was born, and raised in Jerilderie, NSW, Australia. She completed her secondary education at St Margaret's School, Berwick in 1972. After travelling and working at a variety of jobs (including aged care) for most of her twenties, Rosalie completed a Bachelor of Education majoring in Drama and Literature (Deakin University, 1989), and achieved a Master of Arts, Creative Writing (RMIT, M ...more
More about Rosalie Ham...

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