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The Dressmaker

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  1,444 ratings  ·  217 reviews
Set in 1850s London, at the height of Victoria's reign, Posie Graeme-Evans' glorious fourth historical novel tells of a woman ahead of her time. Ellen Gowan is a famous dress designer for ladies of high society and one of the very few women in England who owns her own business. But her life wasn't always one of such privilege.

The only surviving daughter of a Cambridge scho
Paperback, 496 pages
Published October 1st 2010 by Simon & Schuster Australia
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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 yea…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)

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Average rating 3.65  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,444 ratings  ·  217 reviews

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*MystGrrl Reviews*
Oct 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Beautiful story--I enjoyed reading about the fashion world in historical England.
Sarah Mac
DNF, pg 170-something. Because I just don't care.

I enjoy all the modern incarnations of pseudo-Victorian novels. I like pastiche homages to the old masters (e.g. The Meaning of Night, or Kept). I like contemporary voices revisiting the past (Crimson Petal, or The Observations). I even like shamelessly trashy & purely-distilled soap (The Luxe, or Secrets).

But what do I not enjoy? Boring novels. And this, dear friends, is boring. You might read the synopsis & wonder how this book could be dull.
Jean Smith
Oct 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was a great story and I really enjoyed it. The main character Ellen who becomes an orphan at 13 endures much in the way of loss and betrayal but she is able to rise above so many of her trials and tribulations. The period of this story is mid to late 19th century England - a time when women had very little say within marriage and in society generally.
Claudia Aubert
Apr 19, 2017 rated it did not like it
I found this book quite soapy, only finished reading it due to a lack of other options at the time
Beth Sponzilli
Dec 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 19th-century
This book didn’t really get going until halfway in. You need to stick with it for sure.
Dec 06, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Mar 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Tiera San
Dec 29, 2015 rated it it was ok
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
Nov 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
May 16, 2017 rated it it was ok
Two words came into mind constantly while I was reading this: insipid and irritating. As a heroine, Ellen Gowan is both. At certain points in the plot, I wanted to reach through the book and just slap her. Writing this now still makes my fingers itch.

I had expected the book to be an exploration of the work of a modiste and the fashions of the time. Big mistake. Aside from some descriptions of clothing and beadwork, it fell way, WAY short of my expectations.

Even if I had just expected it to be a
Jul 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Jan 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Niamh Griffin
Feb 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
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  ·  review of another edition
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.
Feb 08, 2012 rated it did not like it
The description of this book didn't quite match the actual plot. I thought the plot would focus on the period of the protagonist's life as she's struggling to grow her business and be successful. Instead, the book read more like a fictional biography, with lots of scenes and events from her childhood and adolescence that I wasn't really interested in.

I'm sure others will find value in this one, but I was looking for a different story.
Feb 28, 2011 rated it it was ok
I tend to love Victorean era fiction, and I also have a love of fashion, so I was really looking forward to this story. Sadly, I was dissapointed. It seemed to try for a Dickens-like tone, but missed that mark completely. Neither the plot nor the characters were believable and I ended feeling as though I was reading a soap opera. I found myself skimming through most of it.
Oct 27, 2012 rated it liked it
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.

Sep 06, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: rubbish
I read this novel to the end in the hope that it would improve as it went along - not so. The Dressmaker had all the right materials for a cracking novel which sadly were not taken-up. Just another rag's to riches saga.
Apr 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
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.
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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.

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