Book Review: The Dressmaker by Posie Graeme-Evans

The Dressmaker…

About the Book:

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 scholar-turned village minister and a beautiful woman who was disowned by her family for marrying for love, Ellen had a childhood plentiful in affection, if not in currency and dresses made of fine silks. Tragedy strikes on her thirteenth birthday, when her father dies suddenly, leaving Ellen and her mother penniless and dependent upon the kindness of her mother’s estranged family.

Life takes Ellen down various roads of opulence and depravity until she lands in the arms of the devilishly handsome Raoul de Valentin, whom she marries. Just when Ellen realizes that she is with child, Raoul abandons her. Determined to survive, she begins her long climb to success, first by toiling at a dress factory, then opening up her own salon in the fashionable Battle Square.

The Dressmaker is a romantic odyssey that takes readers into the most luxurious of ballrooms and the most squalid of brothels. It is the sweeping story of a true heroine and her quest to live life fully-to find success, to find love, in an era when such ideas were unheard of for a woman. Brimming with romance, social intrigue and rich, detailed illustrations of Victorian London and its varied inhabitants.

My Thoughts:

When I was in my late teens and early twenties (so, a long time ago), I used to read a lot of Catherine Cookson and Josephine Cox novels. Historical fiction, they almost always told a story of hardship overcome with a romantic happily ever after. I liked that in my late teens and early twenties but I expect a lot more from my historical fiction nowadays. The predictability of this storyline was tiresome within the context of its length. It’s a story I feel I’ve read many times over. I was engaged enough to keep reading but really only preserved because it is the book selected for a buddy read within my book club. We selected it based on the commonality of a few of us having it lingering on our to-be-read shelves. As far as buddy reads go, it probably doesn’t offer a whole lot in terms of conversation. Fans of historical romance who prefer their stories undemanding will most enjoy this.


About the Author:

Posie Graeme-Evans is the author of four novels, including The Dressmaker. She has worked in the Australian media industry for the last thirty years and was named one of Variety magazine’s twenty significant women in film and television. She lives in Tasmania with her husband. Find out more at

The Dressmaker
Published by Simon & Schuster
Available only in ebook

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