The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham

The Dressmaker by Rosalie HamIt’s a few weeks since I finished reading The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham but it is still on my mind.  It’s a popular kind  of book with me – a straightforward tale of life in a small Australian rural town. The author has let her imagination run wild to include  many variations  of human behavior in her range of characters.

Forced to leave town as a teenager  Myrtle Dunnage, known as Tilly, returns to care for her mother who lives on a rise on the outskirts of town. The teenager has matured and become a dressmaker of couture standard, quite different to the girl who went away.  Gradually some of the town come to use her skills as a dressmaker  but do not welcome her back into the life of the town.

I smiled and  I laughed at a lovely sense of oneupmanship.   I wept when there was a death as I moved through the book.

But then  a sense of unease started to sneak into my feelings.  This book is so deceptive.  It reels you in  with its sense of humour and beautiful clothes while all the time a tragedy of classic proportions is slowly taking shape.

My friends laugh and smile when asked how they enjoyed the book.  They talk of the clothes which Tilly makes. But time has leeched the humour and the clothes from my memory of the book and all I am left with is this feeling of doom.

It is a small town.  Everyone knows everyone.  And they seem unable to face the truth about a tragic accident years earlier. Tilly was blamed  whereas the town needs to take one step further back and look at the bully who was the real cause of the accident. They seemed unable to do that. So much easier to blame the misfit than the son of a “respectable” family.

Tilly cares for her aging mother, she makes beautiful clothes for all who ask her, and she proffers well-founded advice which is rejected.  The tension is building for the townspeople to be humiliated and Tilly’s final act before leaving town has unexpected far-reaching tragic effects.

Am I reading more into it than the author  intended ? Perhaps it is the same for everyone – it is what is inside us that makes us interpret the book in different ways. But I judge a book by what remains with me after the details have leeched away and in this case it was the way the author lulled me into a warm and comfortable feeling, wallowing in the nostalgia of small town life, while all the time the destruction of a town is bubbling away underneath

But then that’s just my opinion.  And what  do I know.  But then I do know that I will be re-reading this book and that I look forward to seeing how the upcoming movie with Kate Winslett will interpret the story and how the reviewers will rave about the clothes  !

 

The Burial by Courtney Collins

Ths was a great read.  It was this Australian author’s  first book and i wish her well for her future writing.

The burial

The Narrator is a new born baby, sacrificed and buried by the mother  The baby bears her mother no grudge but continues to monitor her mother’s life and has the ability to fill in the back story of her mother’s early years. I really enjoyed this connection between birth, life, death and the earth.

It is set in the Australian bush, away from urban living,  just after World War I It is a story of rustling, neglect, loneliness, hard livng, endurance and courage.

I enjoy her writing style, at times with a slight mystical quality. We are reminded of the the earth and all the stories its contains, giving it a living, breathing quality.  The things that are going on in the various layers of the earth reminds me of   Julian Barnes    saying ‘It’s just the Universe doing its stuff’.

Page 1 the burial

For some reason or other I kept feeling the story was set in the C19th. I kept missing  or overlooking the clues to its era. But in my mind i think I’ll keep it that way. -the horses, the mountains and caves, all the virgin country where people could hide and not be found, the scattered huts where people tended their cattle. This unrelenting country is another character in the story with, in varying amounts, her husband, her lover, the law, and reward hunters.

In my eyes this is a little gem of a book.