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The Dressmaker

3.44  ·  Rating details ·  14,861 ratings  ·  1,654 reviews
A darkly satirical novel of love, revenge, and 1950s haute couture—now a major motion picture starring Kate Winslet, Judy Davis, Liam Hemsworth, and Hugo Weaving

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 moth
Paperback, 296 pages
Published 2000 by Duffy and Snellgrove
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Ron "The Dressmaker" is Australian Gothic. What you are describing are standard Australian Gothic elements and archetypes. There are generic commonalities…more"The Dressmaker" is Australian Gothic. What you are describing are standard Australian Gothic elements and archetypes. There are generic commonalities between genre texts, that's why they call them "genres".

Thank you for the tip-off on "Siddon Rock". I have marked it as to read. I hope though that it's not one of those dragging family sagas that sometimes masquerade as Australian Gothic. You know, like "The Thorn Birds"...(less)

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Average rating 3.44  · 
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 ·  14,861 ratings  ·  1,654 reviews

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Sep 09, 2015 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
A strange story indeed. Quirky characters in what appears to be a typical, very small, country town in Victoria. Tilly (Myrtle) has returned from The Big Wide World to take care of her mother, Mad Molly Dunnage. She arrives one night at the train station with her bags and Singer sewing machine, and the only character I liked, Sergeant Farrat, drives her home to the smelly house on The Hill by the tip.

Tilly was bullied at school as a bastard and is snubbed by everyone now. Mum is all she has. T
Dec 15, 2015 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 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. ...more
The Dressmaker was undoubtedly the surprise of the year.

From the blurb:
A darkly satirical novel of love, revenge, and 1950s haute couture
Myrtle and Molly Dunnage were the outcasts in Dungatar, Australia. Paying for other people's sins were more like it, but the town did not find it difficult to make these two people the culprits of the town's many secrets, meanness and bigotry. Openly so. With no remorse of any kind.

Myrtle returns from Europe with her special dressmaking talents and turns th

When Tilly Dunnage returned after twenty years to Dungatar, the small Australian town she used to call home, she knew she would be shunned by the same people who had banished her as a child. She needed to check on the welfare of her mother, and then she would leave again. Tilly had been trained as a dressmaker in Paris; her skill was second to none – but that would mean nothing to the bitter and vengeful women of the town.

Tilly’s mother, Molly was in a dreadful state – demented and filthy,
Mar 09, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The premise of this book is good; however, the novel involves too many characters and too many plots. Really struggled to get into this book at the beginning but did get better. Look forward to the movie.
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
Aug 20, 2008 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... ...more
Jx PinkLady Reviews ♡ @bookwormthoughts

This book was chosen by a local book club I'm part of and had very mixed reviews from the group. Some really enjoyed, loving the quirkiness of the prose and the characters but some found the story a little dull. A complaint from a few was the plethora of additional characters, which I personally felt were almost part of the scenery adding layers to the feel of the storyboard. The third person narrative combined with the excessive amount of characters, at times, made the story lose focus for my p
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 03, 2013 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.
Apr 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was sad and true, the writing got a little boring with too many details of dresses at times but overall, it was a fast read.
May 24, 2016 rated it did not like it
It is rare, but sometimes one comes across a book, read it and then think: I wish I'd just watched the film.

This might be one of the worst books I've actually finished reading. And I finished reading it because it is relatively short and I wanted to see if at any point it would get any better. It didn't.

It was very chaotic. Both in plot and in style. The style seemed to vary within paragraphs and sometimes I got confused at the order of the narrative, it seemed totally illogical at places. It al
Linda Burnham
Nov 07, 2015 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
Jan 30, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: auth-f, 2021-read
Tilly returns after many years away in Europe, working as a couturier, to her hometown, the small town of Dungatar, to find that it is still filled with all the people who ostracized and bullied her mother and her for all her childhood.
Tilly finds her mother starving, living in filth, and barely sane. After cleaning her home and feeding her, Tilly begins the slow job of bringing her mother back to herself.
Tilly’s eye-catching dress designs rapidly attract the attention of the Dungatar women, w
Mar 08, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: two-star
I admit it, I'm a sucker for a novel thats been noticed enough to be adapted into a movie. Most of the time I will read the book then see the film adaption to see where it differs. I decided to read The Dressmaker because I think Kate Winslet is a phenomenal actress; she usually picks very interesting roles to play hence why I thought this would be an ideal book to get my teeth sunk into. Unfortunately, it was an underwhelming experience.

Myrtle, now known as Tilly, has returned to her small home
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
♥ Sandi ❣
3.25 stars

A retake on the "girl that lives across the tracks", but in this case the one that lives up on the hill. A story of a depressingly poor community that ostracizes the family that lives on the "hill". Tilly has come back home after traveling the world and learning her craft, to find her mother "Mad Molly" in very poor shape. The town's women, who only bullied and abused Tilly as a child, now want Tilly to make them stylish dresses. After holding her head high in town, losing two people v
Deborah Ideiosepius
It is sometime in the 1950's somewhere in outback Australia the tiny, dry, wheat belt town of Dungatar goes about it's insular business until one winter night an unexpected event: A greyhound bus lets off a passenger who will turn the whole town upside down.

Tilly Dunnage grew up in the town until she was sent away, she went out into the world to Melbourne and Europe where she became a creative and experienced dressmaker. Recently she had tried to contact her mother back in Dungatar and when she
Ok! this book was quirky and full of strange characters. I gave it a solid 4 stars. Easy to follow. Loved the revenge that Tilly did at the end. After, treating her and her mother horribly for years well! revenge was sweet plus she made them pay for all the costumes and left town with her head up. Two sad parts only. This movie would of made me laugh so much I might of pissed in my pants but I do prefer to read the book because you get more of the story.
I do recommend this book. It’s an easy rea
Jayne  Downes
Jan 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A great book. I loved the dark humour and the descriptions of the mean spirited people of the small town. Beautifully written.
Jan 01, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a reread of this book for me as I had read it in 2000 when it first came out. After seeing the movie recently I realised that aside from a few details I couldn't remember anything about the book. I don't often feel this way but I think in this instance I enjoyed the movie more than I did the book. It may not have helped that I was probably influenced by the movie and kept picturing the actors who played the characters, whilst reading which is not always a good thing. I did enjoy Ham's wr ...more
Sep 23, 2018 rated it did not like it
DNF @44%. I had forgotten that this was still on my "Currently reading" list, I've given up on it for.... a little more than a year now.

The writing is atrocious, the characters are uninteresting and kind of repulsive, and the "character returns and shows them all! plot is overdone. But the biggest problem has GOT to be the characters.

I watched the movie just to see how it ends, I wouldn't recommend it because I didn't enjoy it very much, but it was HEAPS better than the dumpster fire that is th
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
Nov 26, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5 Winning Kate Winslet Stars
* * * 1/2 Spoiler Free- A MOVIE Review
Yes, I cheated again and this is about the movie, not the book. I saw the trailer for this movie years ago and have been searching for it on and off for a while now. I got lucky today and found it on Amazon Prime.

The actors were strong, Kate Winslet, Liam Hemsworth, and Judy Davis as the main characters. This was quirky, in the 1950s and the costumes were worth the watching.

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Jan 01, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: school-books
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: australia
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. ...more
Dec 05, 2015 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
Tamra Staiger
Feb 05, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: tried-to-read
I tried this book . . .I wanted to like it . . . but couldn't. WAY to many characters to follow . . . I felt like I needed to write them down and create some sort of diagram to follow to keep track of them. So many pointless references to body parts . . . I have never read so many references to scrotums and erect nipples . . . seriously seemed to have no point to the storyline . . . but granted I made it 1/3 of the way through the book and still hadn't found a plot. After reading a completely po ...more
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Play Book Tag: The Dressmaker - Rosalie Ham - four stars 9 21 May 11, 2017 02:24PM  
Contemporary YA: The Dressmaker 2 10 Oct 02, 2016 06:12PM  
Screen & Page: The Dressmaker 1 3 Oct 01, 2016 02:57PM  
Around the Year i...: The Dressmaker, by Rosalie Ham 1 18 Jul 13, 2016 12:30PM  
La Stamberga dei ...: Dal libro al film: The Dressmaker 1 18 Jul 02, 2016 10:25AM  
Satire Is Ultimately Idealistic: Reflections on Ham's _The Dressmaker_ 2 42 Jun 15, 2016 08:59AM  

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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

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