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The Dressmaker's War

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  5,623 ratings  ·  642 reviews
A gripping, powerful, compulsively readable work of historical fiction: the story of a brilliant English dressmaker caught in Germany during World War II, the choices she must make to stay alive—and the way she confronts those choices in war’s aftermath. For readers of Amy Bloom and Anthony Doerr.

In London, 1939, Ada Vaughan is a young woman with an unusual dressmaking ski
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published January 5th 2016 by Random House (first published March 23rd 2015)
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Sue Yes, I had to read it in one sitting. I just had to know what happened to Ada. And as others have said, I did want to yell at her and shake her.
Mary Chamberlain Ada was a young woman of her time - we can't judge her by 21st standards. She was hidebound by her class and by her gender. I don't think she lacked a…moreAda was a young woman of her time - we can't judge her by 21st standards. She was hidebound by her class and by her gender. I don't think she lacked a moral compass - she lacked confidence, she was naive, as were most young women of her background at the time, and she was placed in an impossible situation where she was alone. Escape was impossible and what good would it have done her if she told the prosecution at the trial that there were Jewish prisoners working in the commandant's house? It might seem that Ada made poor choices - but what else could she have done in her situation? We must always ask ourselves: would we have done differently? (less)

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Average rating 3.66  · 
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Angela M
Oct 13, 2015 rated it liked it
I've read a good number of books about WWII, told from different perspectives , both fiction and non fiction -some depicting the holocaust and the horrific experiences of the concentration and death camps , some portraying it from the soldier's perspective, some focusing on the resistance movement and some telling the stories of brave people who saved Jews. I've also viewed the war through the eyes of death. I thought this might be another side of how the war impacted people and changed their li ...more
Marla Madison
Apr 27, 2016 rated it did not like it
I seldom award a book only one star because if they are that undeserving, I normally don't finish them. The Dressmaker's War, although well-written, had to be one of the most depressing tale's of a woman's life that I've ever read. I kept reading always hoping something would get better for Ada, a young woman who, at the very beginning of WWII, follows a ne'er do well boyfriend to Paris where she believes he is going to propose. Stanislaus, however, has other intentions and eventually dumps Ada ...more
Aug 18, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dorie  - Cats&Books :)
Dec 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
I received an ARC of this book through netgalley in exchange for an honest review. The copy of my book was titled “The Dressmakers War”.

I had not been requesting any books revolving around WWII since there has been a plethora of books written from almost every angle. This book however promised a new perspective.

Ada Vaughn is a 19 y/o young woman recently moved to London from a small town with the hopes of becoming a dressmaker, perhaps having a shop of her own. She starts work as a modiste for a
Jun 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: four-star
Ava is young, ambitious and naive. She dreams of designing her own dresses and selling them to the upper class women of London. Luckily, she has a natural talent, and her life is pretty much mapped out. That is until she meets a charming and mysterious gentleman who whisks her away for a romantic break in Paris, where she can study French fashion and purchase materials for her collection. And then war breaks out.

This was a brilliant read set among the dramatic and desolate times of the mid twent
Jun 01, 2016 rated it it was ok
I'm in a good mood this morning, so I'll give this book 2 stars. I had a lot of hope for this historical novel--the setting is WWII England and Germany, the main character a young woman supremely skilled at dressmaking. Unfortunately, the characters are all one-dimensional, either completely evil or naively innocent and good. The main character makes the same mistakes over and over again ad infinitum, always choosing the wrong man, making poor life choices (such as choosing to become a prostitut ...more
Theresa Smith
I feel entirely mislead about this book. The blurb is not reflective of the story at all. This story had all the promise of greatness: a dressmaker in a concentration camp, surviving against the odds. I was instantly intrigued. Well for a start, the dressmaker wasn't in a camp. Yes, she was kept prisoner, and her story was still an intriguing one, but why mislead on the cover? There was no love story either, again, deliberately misleading. Nor was she abandoned in Paris. As frustrating as I foun ...more
Aug 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I couldn't put this book down. I found it fascinating to hear how British citizens were held in Germany during the war. I mean you always hear of how Germans were held in the U.K. but this was a side of history that had fallen through the cracks. I recommend it to anyone that enjoys WWII historical fiction.
I'd had this on my Kindle for ages but had forgotten what it was about (apart from WWII obviously, and I was offline at the time so couldn't check the blurb). As it turned out, going into it 'blind' was the best thing to do as it didn't go the way I assumed it would at all.

Born in the backstreets of London, 18 year old seamstress Ada has dreams of opening her own fashion house one day. Naive and trusting yet ambitious, she meets the exotic Stanislaus, a meeting which will change her life foreve
This book was like two stories in one, which was quite confusing. The before and after of WW2 for the main character. Something kept me reading though, I wanted to find out what happened. But the main character annoyed me. 
Annette Chidzey
The Dressmaker of Dachau was an interesting account. Ada Vaughan was somewhat of an enigma- strong and decisive at times- naive and frustrating on other occasions. I am not quite sure how I feel about her. What does emerge in this novel is the all too familiar powerless plight of women that seems to typify much of history. It seems that being successful, ambitious or determined often comes at a cost personally or professionally, Ada being no exception.
Stephanie Anze
Ada is a talented dressmaker, living in London, that dreams of opening her own house of fashion someday. At eighteen, she is also naive, so when she meets a mysterious man that promises her the world, she does not hesitate to follow him. Its the eve of WWII and despite warnings, Ada and her mystery man leave for Paris. It is a decision that is going to alter the course of her life.

This novel was compared to Anthony Doerr's All the Lights We Cannot See. Frankly, I think the comparisons are unwarr
Oct 08, 2016 rated it liked it
I am glad I read this novel. The ramification of Ada's troubled choices before, during and after WW II created an uncomfortable story line. Several times, my response was "really?" "what are you doing?" I so badly wanted her to succeed as a dressmaker! I accept that my reactions are that of a woman today. It wasn't until I read the author's notes that I fully appreciated the way the war era was rigged against women.
May 02, 2016 rated it did not like it
I didn't like the main character-- she was completely aloof and it was hard to connect with such a character. Beginning was ok but hard to finish. Disappointed!!
Angelique Simonsen
Surprising ending to this book. Well told with the completely fictional character of ada who is forever making the wrong decisions. How love will turn your head and then return to haunt you
Jun 08, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book ruined my day. It was so depressing and not in a good way. Everything that could go wrong for this girl did, it just kept snowballing... Like a gigantic snowball of doom and gloom rolling along getting more gloomy and doomy with each and thus lost all effectiveness. The worst part is that right from the beginning I wanted to slap some sense into the stupid character and so I just could not sympathize with her. I would love to go back and unread this book.
Lara Morrow
Jan 16, 2017 rated it did not like it
This was so difficult to get through. It was a book for my book club or I wouldn't have finished it. The main character makes dumb mistake after mistake and wonders why bad things keep happening to her.
Katie Mcsweeney
Had to force myself to finish
Evelyn Charalambous
This was very painful reading.
Jan 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just when you think it couldn't get any worse...
I don't think I've ever shouted at a book before, but that's how this one made me feel. Maybe that's a good thing, it certainly stirred up the emotions, anger definitely being one of them.

The first half of the book I felt sorry for the main character Ada. She was young and naive, which got her into a whole heap of trouble. But she managed to survive through terrible adversity, and was finally liberated. It wasn't all plain sailing getting back into
Aug 21, 2017 rated it liked it
In The Dressmaker's War, Ada Vaughn was a young woman whose inexperience led her across Europe on the brink of war. Stranded in Belgium by a man Ada thought loved her, she took refuge in a convent until the Nazis rounded up the nuns and shipped them even further from Ada's home to care for wounded and ill Germans.

This story had many elements to it, all of which gave an interesting perspective of World War II. The first part of the novel showed Ada as a naive idiot who had no reason to believe th
Mairead Hearne (
‘You may look like a swan, but if you talk like a sparrow, who will take you seriously? Welcome, Miss Vaughan’

I was lucky enough to receive my copy of The Dressmaker of Dachau from Harper Collins. It is written by Mary Chamberlain and published in 2015 by The Borough Press, an imprint of Harper Collins.

My review is as ever my own opinion and most importantly, an honest one. I do hope you enjoy.

‘London, spring 1939. Ada Vaughan is a young and ambitious seamstress. Desperate to escape from her
Feb 01, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
Now this is aggravating, I saved my review and got an error saying the review does not exist... grrrrrrr So I get to start over, and try again... sometimes I HATE computers!

First of all, I am only giving this book 3 stars because the narration of the audiobook was awful. This is not the kind of story that needs a "wannabe sexy" super breathy voice, which is how the narrator started this book. I admit that I was ready to return the book at 40 minutes, but decided to sleep on it, and see how I fel
Written against a real historical background of the outbreak of war in Europe, this is a tale of one woman’s resilience despite tragedy.

For the locations featured in the story - Booktrail of The Dressmaker of Dachau

Ada leads a sad and uneventful life in Lambeth, London and so wants to escape her life. Ada became her designs, a walking advertisement for them. Working for the modiste in Dover street, the craves the life she feels she can’t have. She might feel out of her depth in the Savoy and the
Apr 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
3.5/5 | I got chills by the end of this book! The Dressmaker's war is a gritty rendition of the effects of World War II from the perspective of then 19 year old Ada Vaughan, who aspires to have the House of Vaughan and make a name for herself in dressmaking. The historical fictions about WWII are often written from the standpoint of the Jews who were most targeted and it was refreshing to gain the *albeit fictional* perspective of a young lady of a different race who gets caught in the stark rea ...more
May 06, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ada Vaughan is a young London girl with dreams of being a successful fashion designer. Seduced by a charming Count, she finds herself in Belgium as the second world war breaks out. I really liked the idea of this book, as them time period often is one of my favourites to read about. I just got a little annoyed at Ada, who seemed a a little too naive and kept finding herself stuck in a pickle. I just wanted her to be a little stronger and smarter. Some of the story seemed to jump about a bit much ...more
Rochelle Kaplan
Dec 19, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
Why Goodreads equates this book to Nightingale is anyone's guess. Nightingale was a powerful narrative. Dressmaker's War simply does not hold a candle to that book.I was given an advance copy of the book by a friend. Last night, I spent several hours reading and then skimming the book. Ada is insipid and naive to the point of being ridiculous. Her mother's reaction when she returns to London is beyond the pale of reality. How can Ada continue to trust strange men when she is constantly betrayed ...more
Jan 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Saying that I enjoyed a book about World War II and the holocaust makes me feel almost irreverent. I liked the perspective presented in the story. I was totally caught up in it and carried away. Some have reviewed it negatively, calling it depressing. The actual event was depressing; how then can it be presented any other way?
Jul 11, 2016 rated it did not like it
DO NOT READ THIS!!! Goodread recommended this book to me. And it sounded GOOD! But it isn't. Full of Sex and such. Ugh i regret even starting it. I didn't finish it because of how disturbing it is. I wish it was cleaned up. I think the idea is very intriguing and one you don't hear about.
Leticia Seay
Aug 13, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Not recommended

This book was horribly written. Grammatical errors throughout , very tangentially written, Difficult to follow and boring. As a woman I found it difficult to accept such a naive and easily manipulated woman .
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Sinopsis en Español // Synopsis in Spanish 1 6 Jun 24, 2015 11:48AM  

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Mary Chamberlain is a novelist and historian. Her book Fenwomen was the first book to be published by Virago Press in 1975. Since then, she has published six other works of history, and edited a further five. Her first novel, The Mighty Jester was published by Dr. Cicero Books in the US. Her British debut novel, The Dressmaker of Dachau was published by HarperCollins in the UK and, under the title ...more

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“And now the chiffon.’ Veils of mystery and a taffeta lining, oyster and pearl and precious lustres. Ada loved the way the clothes transformed her. She could be fire, or water, air or earth. Elemental. Truthful. This was who she was. She would lift her arms as if to embrace the heavens and the fabric would drift in the gossamer breeze;” 0 likes
“E ela se perguntou como era possível fazer da miséria uma religião.” 0 likes
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