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The Dressmaker

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  1,286 Ratings  ·  207 Reviews
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 tal
Paperback, 454 pages
Published October 12th 2010 by Atria Books (first published October 1st 2010)
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Julia Yes, I think it would be enjoyable if you like historical fiction and romance. The main character, Ellen, is quite young. It starts with her at 13…moreYes, I think it would be enjoyable if you like historical fiction and romance. The main character, Ellen, is quite young. It starts with her at 13 years old.(less)

Community Reviews

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*MystGrrl Reviews*
Oct 20, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of historical fiction, strong female characters and fans of the book called the Linnet Bird
Recommended to *MystGrrl Reviews* by: Saw it at Kmart
Ok, I debated for a while whether or not to get this book... When I read the back of the book it reminded me of stories I had read before that had started with so much promise but in the end disappointed me with a badly put together/completely dissatisfying conclusions. So I ummed and ahhhed for awhile before I finally gave in...

First of all, I want to say if the summary blurb at the back of the book mentioning teen pregnancy makes you feel uncomfortable or puts you off reading this book, please
Nov 29, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This took me a few chapter to get into but when I did, I was swept up into Victorian England. Just to clarify, it isn't a pretty sight. Poverty is something to be truly feared, as the women of this time period well know.

I hesitate to call it a story because it trivializes what the author has accomplished. She has created the life of Ellen Gowan during an oppressive time period for women. She intricately weaves aspects into the book to create a believable protagonist who faces the difficulties of
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Apr 26, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of Harlequin Romances?
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Ultimate Reading List
I found the style irritating from the very first pages, studded with frequent italics and exclamation points to suit the melodramatic tone. Here's a paragraph of it from the prologue:

Ellen Gowan would not cringe and cry in the dark. She would be warm for she had earned the money so to be. Let there be fire! Let there be candles, not one but several!

That strident tone is kept throughout. After the prologue we see Ellen, the dressmaker of the title, as a girl on her thirteenth birthday in 1843.
I thought it was a melodramatic soap opera that would appeal to a teenage girl, as it did indeed appeal to my teenage daughter. I found it predictable. The main character, Ellen, is beautiful, talented and educated, but poor. Her mother came from a rich family and had been kicked out of the family when when she married her poor scholar husband in a case of true love. But tragedy strikes and the poor scholar husband dies in a freak accident. This means going home to the mother's family and hoping ...more
Nov 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
When Ellen Gowan was just a little girl, her father died in a tragic accident. Ellen and her mother, Connie moved in with Ellen’s Aunt and her family. While Ellen’s Aunt and cousin did not mind having Ellen and her mother around; Ellen’s Uncle was a different story. It got to be too much for Ellen and her mother dealing with Ellen’s Uncle’s wrath that they moved out.

Years later, Ellen’s mother passes away and Ellen marries the dashing Raoul de Valentin. Ellen gives birth to a daughter. Raoul is
Jun 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At first the book was a little slow to get started but then after the first few chapters it was near impossible to put down. Beautifully written, the images just flowed from the pages with the use of such descriptive and emotive language. It also moves quite fast as the story progresses over years once through the slow beginning.
By the end I was deeply saddened when it all had to finish and wish it could've gone on for a lot longer.
Christine Darcas
Mar 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I discovered this book as a result of the Australian Women Writer’s challenge and I’m glad that I did. Based in the early-mid 19th century in England, this is the tale of Ellen Gowen. Born to a poor, scholarly minister and a mother who was ousted by her aristocratic family for marrying below her class, Ellen encounters unmooring loss and ensuing desperation to survive. Her mother’s sister and her loving first cousin are a financially fortunate, though fraught, source of support for her and it’s ...more
Jenny Q
Nov 22, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: review-copy
I haven't read any of Posie Graeme-Evans' other books, and I don't know that I will. There's nothing wrong with this one, except that it just didn't send me. Ellen is likeable enough, but it seems like luck plays a far more prominent role in her success than her own chutzpah does. Though she does overcome adversity, she leans heavily on the help of others and there doesn't seem to be any real fire burning in her. The story is very predictable and the ending's all tied up in a nice little bow. Lo ...more
Feb 09, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A quick read, in an unsubtle, overwrought false-Dickens tone. I didn't care for it. It felt like pulp fiction to me.
Jane Gruber
Jan 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful story--I enjoyed reading about the fashion world in historical England.
Claudia Aubert
Apr 19, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book quite soapy, only finished reading it due to a lack of other options at the time
Dec 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
I was hoping for sumptuous descriptions of fashion and fabric in The Dressmaker by Posie Graeme-Evans and I got my wish, along with a fairly entertaining story of a hardworking single mother's meteoric rise to success reminiscent of Jennifer Donnelly's Tea Rose.

"She gazed into Ellen's face---'It is sad to find ability in the hands of one who will never use it to real effect.'

Ellen shrank back. Madame Angelique's eyes were severe. What could she mean? 'But I like to draw.'

'You like to draw? Many
Jul 31, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel does a great job of following a woman's journey from childhood to adulthood. When I first started reading, I did not expect to follow the story of Ellen throughout so many years of her life, but I enjoyed reading her story. I really liked the pacing of the novel in that there are jumps in time to avoid any redundancy in the plot. Readers can get a sense of what happened in those jumps from context clues, which I really liked. I felt like the author trusted readers enough and valued th ...more
Bronwyn Rykiert
I quite enjoyed this story about Ellen Gowan, who grew up in a happy home until her 13th birthday when her father was killed at his church. Ellen and her mother Connie went to live with Connie's sister Daisy but they were unwelcome by Daisy's husband Isodore. Ellen was happy living at 'Skene' and she got along quite well with her cousin Oriana. The first chance Isodore had though he told Connie and Ellen that they were to leave his house. Daisy arranged for them to go and live with her dressmake ...more
Nov 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The story of Ellen Gowan's rise, through difficult circumstances, from poverty to success as a dressmaker.

I have no idea what the fabrics and gown components really are, but they sound like they make beautiful outfits.

Sample descriptions I enjoyed from the book (ARC):

"The point of the blade whipped to Raoul's throat just below the Adam's apple. The touch was light but depressingly accurate."

"The man's bravado hissed out of him, punctured like a bladder."

I had respect for and affection for the ma
Anna Anderson
Oct 13, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would have rated this book 4.5 stars, if that were an option. I usually can pin point the parts of a book that touched me the most or caused me to enjoy it, but after I finished this book, I was unable to pick out certain parts or characters that made it a worthy read for me, it was just an overall feeling that I was left with at the end, quite hard for me to explain, which is also unusual because I typically can describe down to a "T" why I enjoyed a book...I know this is not very helpful in ...more
Jan 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 06, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book is what it is. An easy story that you don't need much thought process to comprehend, because if you do you see the truth that while it could have been a GREAT read, it was a dismal one. Grammatical errors abound but what really threw me off was when certain characters were introduced, whom I had hoped would be reintroduced later, were forgotten in the background. Madame Angelique for instance, was quite an important character to Ellen for a while then and then BOOM she disappears even ...more
Niamh Griffin
Posie Graeme-Evans has an authentic voice and unique turn of phrase, which were delicious to relish. Her knowledge and vocabulary of dressmaking, food, furnishings and nature are intoxicating. While it took me a few chapters to immerse myself in Victorian England (I blame jet-lag), immersed I was. I thoroughly enjoyed the beauty and horrors that were depicted in Ellen's worlds. This protagonist suffers many tragedies but is never portrayed as a victim, building strength of character from each ne ...more
Feb 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 19th-century
This is the edition I read.
I do not like it when two different editions of the same book appear on my reading list.
The author says she never made an outline or plotted the book but just let it write itself. I think she did a good job!
Women who love clothes, fabrics, sewing and a heroine who rise to riches through their needle and love of design while also falling in love will really like this book.
Oct 27, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ellen Gowan and her mother move to London during Victorian times after a family tragedy. This historical novel focuses on Ellen and her fight to survive and flourish.

After a long, dreary beginning, this book became interesting. The story of Ellen, as a woman working as a dressmaker in Victorian times, and the role of women during this time, was particularly compelling.

Apr 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
From beginning to end, The Dressmaker explores how Ellen is subject to the inequality and hardships that faced women of the mid-19th Century. I enjoyed reading about the fashion world in England during that time. Intriguing characters.
Dec 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed the saga!! Ellen's life was always filled with so much promise. What a great journey to take with her!
Jul 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
I actually really enjoyed this book. I found the setting was well done and liked all the descriptions of the gowns. And I really like Ellen, the main character. She is strong despite all of her hardship, works hard, and never complains. Polly is also a great character. I just loved when she ran into the inn and asked for the two biggest, strongest guys there.

Plus the cover is lovely.

I wish it was longer. I would like to read more by this author.
Helen Mulliss
Dec 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Although this book started at a slower pace, I found that before long I was completely engrossed and unable to stop reading. The Dressmaker is full of so many twist and turns, and fast-paced action it is a challenge to put down. This novel was filled with just the right amount of tragedy, heartache and endurance to keep me more than interested and wanting more. I would certainly read more from the same author after experiencing the beauty of this work.
CaseyAnn Salanova
Not a huge fan of the writing style in general, and as others have said, this book has a truly slow start. I nearly gave up. However, it was a relatively quick read and even, emotionally touching at times. I have read one author piece from this author and had a similar feeling at the end--mildly entertained but not really impressed.
Jane Dinn
This was a nice story and portrayal of life in England but a little slow for me
Jodie Storm
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rachel Zylstra
Sep 15, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This story failed for me on many levels. It took me until at least halfway through the novel to become slightly interested. But it's short-lived.

Ellen Gowan loses her father and mother by the age of 15, and is seduced and 'married' shortly after to the horrible Raoul De Valentin. (This name infuriated me the whole time as I didn't know how to pronounce Raoul'). All seems well until he abandons her once she becomes pregnant.

She works for a fashion label as a designer/sketcher to scrape by befor
Tiera San
I am kind of disappointed with this book. I had really high hopes for this book because it was described as "a meeting of romance of Jane Austen, the social commentary of Charles Dickens and the very contemporary voice of Posie Graeme- Evans" (Synopsis of Book). The writing was very wordy and I believe that this book could have been way shorter. I think that there are numerous scenes that could have been cut out and other sections that could have been shorten. The protagonist's name is Ellen Gow ...more
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Sinopsis en Español // Synopsis in Spanish 1 1 Nov 20, 2014 11:54AM  
¿Por qué no una traducción al Español? 1 1 Oct 22, 2014 12:59PM  
Translation into Spanish, why not? 1 2 Jul 01, 2014 06:48PM  
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Posie Graeme-Evans has worked in the Australian film and television industry for the last twenty-five years as an editor, director, and producer on hundreds of prime-time television programs, including McLeod's Daughters and Hi-5. She lives in Sydney with her husband and creative partner, Andrew Blaxland.
More about Posie Graeme-Evans...

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