Book Review – The Dressmaker And Her Daughters

Author: Anna St GeorgeThe Dressmaker and Her Daughters.jpg

So the ‘Dressmaker and Her Daughters’ I only finished it moments ago and I am speechless. You see this is pitched as a historical romance, set in the 1950’s about four sisters who move with their family to Ireland. But it doesn’t read like a historical romance, it reads like a satirical comedy, and part of me hopes that it is.

Seriously, where to start, perhaps at the writing. It starts off as merely childish, plot points that would be obvious to a literate mole are treated as dramas, every time the girls go anywhere we get a full description of what they’re wearing and how they look in it, everything looks like ‘a faerie tale’ and there’s a massive ‘and’ pandemic, they’re everywhere; where commas should be, at the beginning of sentences, instead of full stops! The book is written as a list not a narrative ‘and then this happened and then she said something like this and then they reacted like this for many things had happened in this sentence alone’. It’s not just the ‘and’ thing, I don’t think the author knew what some words she was using meant, things are described using two words that are antonyms – you can’t have ‘Peaceful Passion’ for goodness sake. Don’t even get me started on the metaphors, the sun doesn’t melt into the sea and describing the girl like a trapped deer at the moment of her first kiss is nothing other than scary.

I’ll say one last thing about the writing -and if you can get to the end of this sentence without laughing, please feel free to ignore my review as we’re clearly on different plains of existence – but any book that uses the phrase ‘The only thing on her love menu is frozen dessert’ clearly does not know what writing is. What does the even mean? It was in dialogue too, someone said that line. Out loud. Very close to the line ‘This is the dance of lovers’. Suffice to say, the dialogue is beyond my comprehension.

Even if what I’ve just said hasn’t made you flee in the direction of a high cliff or an open-mouthed Warg know that even if it was written well this book would be alarming. The romance in this is just terrifying, just to pick out a few highlights from the four sisters relationships; one of them gets given a ‘how to be a wife manual’ before marriage to a man she’s never met but feels that God has led her too and nothing I just said is a problem. Another sister falls in love with a married man but she leaves him because of her faith in God and she is rewarded for her patience when his wife dies of cancer so they can finally be together. When two characters are discussing a drama of the night before they find themselves in hysterics because their mistress was throwing plates at her husband – there’s nothing funnier than domestic violence after all. I don’t think I need to say more on that subject.

You’ll notice God has come up quite a bit now, he doesn’t show up for the first 40% of the book, but after that he’s on every page, there’s a full-page of psalms because, apparently, the world hasn’t printed enough bibles. Now, I’m not one to automatically hate Christian Fiction, if it’s a good book, it’s a good book – but the God in this world is nearly as scary as the romance. As mentioned above he rewards patience with murder, and there’s another incident where the adulterous girl nearly sleeps with her lover before he’s widowed and his sister gets in a horrible car accident which, she concludes because it’s the only obvious explanation, must be the work of God, because he was saving her from sin. What?! Who else is going to get on God’s firing range because of someone else decision to have sex?

Now if you’re still reading and thinking ‘Wow, I love terrible writing and Hannibal Lecter style romance, and I always liked God old testament anyway’ then the historical part of this historical romance is a mess too. It serves no purpose except perhaps to give the bible bashing a sense of cultural norm. The characters constantly slip into modern Americanisms (I will remind you they live in rural 50’s Ireland) and the only cultural reference to the time is a Godzilla joke which comes out of freaking nowhere, yes, the movie technically came out a year before the book is set, but if you’re going to tell me that four bible fearing girly girls not only made but understood the reference then I’m going to laugh in your face.

I just don’t know what else to say about it, the only reason I’ve not completely tanked the book is it had me in uncontrollable peals of laughter that came from a mixture of ‘this is the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen’ and a paralyzing fear that someone in this world wrote this not as a joke.

Set in the 1950’s, The Dressmaker and Her Daughters is the story of the Collins’ sisters; Julia, Hannah, Rebekah and Abby. When Mr Collins falls into business difficulties and his health begins to fail the Collins family return to their hometown where they buy a seaside cottage in a picturesque village that overlooks the ruins of an old castle. Mrs Collins carries on with her dressmaking expertise with Rebekah’s talent at her side and the four sisters are soon the talk of the town with their charm and beauty.

This tale follows the lives of the four sisters through their joys and struggles to make a new life in a new place. Julia is the eldest of the Collins’ sisters and a very talented piano player who catches the eye of the well esteemed Mr Jack Brennan. Rebekah is a seamstress like her mother and her life takes an unexpected turn one day when Mr and Mrs Allen arrive at the door when their car breaks down. Abby is the youngest of the Collins’ sisters and she is the wild one with red hair and she is always getting into trouble. She has two horses that annoy the farmer next door however her charm and beauty captivate his son, David, a mysterious young man with delicious secrets circulating through the village about him.

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