Book Club

Thursday Bookclub for April

The Thursday Bookclub book for April is The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham. The bookclub will meet to discuss on Thursday April 21 at 2.30 pm – 4.30 pm. Feel free to leave your comments in this post.

If you would like to join the Thursday Bookclub, email frelib@fremantle.wa.gov.au or phone 9432 9766.

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One thought on “Thursday Bookclub for April

  1. Chilla undertook to post comments on the site. others in attendance were Alison, Delis, June, Anne, Megan, Lorraine and Annabel.
    Apart from Lorraine (who also enjoyed *Breath* immensely), we generally didn’t like *The Dressmaker*, Delis declaring it ‘the worst novel I’ve ever read’ and asking ‘how did this book get on to the market?’. Most of us had trouble keeping the supporting characters separate in our heads, apart from Anne who read the novel twice in order to get a hold on the characters. There was some criticism of the caricaturing, or ‘extremely exaggerated’ depiction of the characters as ‘so weird’, ‘a rum lot’, ‘unidimensional’. However those who had grown up in rural Australia (Anne on a farm) or in a village, even in England, found the gossiping, bullying, and back-biting: ‘if they don’t like someone there’s no two ways about it’.

    Most of us had trouble with the meant to be funny aspects of the novel, not finding them humorous as the events experienced by Tilly and others were ‘too sad to laugh at’ – ‘tragi-funny’, ‘dark humour’. most agreed the sex scene which was interrupted by the betrayed wife hosing the window was funny. Annabel pointed out that the novel was gothic in that Mad Molly and Tilly lived in the house (castle) on the hill.

    Descriptions of the dresses were ‘a bit over the top’ although June pointed out that many of the descriptions were well-crafted – ‘you could see her crafting the words in the sentence’. There was some enthusiasm for Mad Molly, the ‘old Tartar’ and the Sergeant.

    Tilly’s revenge, turning into a ‘man-woman: revenge was hers’ was explained by Anne as not intended – ie she intended only to burn down her own house, expunge her past, but not the whole town.

    Lorraine really enjoyed ‘the closely observed insight into a small town’: the unfolding characters, the lack of a happy ending, Tilly’s spirit, strong sense of identity, the lovely reconciliation with the mother and any town not ever being as it appears to be. Those with a posh house have no money, the police officer cross dresses.

    This led into a discussion of some of the questions which allowed us to see that the differential response to challenges to normative behaviour was interesting – cross-dressing was tolerated because one was ‘never quite sure what you are seeing’, Megan remembering her mother saying ‘Here come’s nurse’s girlfriend’ and neither understanding what she meant, nor ever forgetting the comment. There was no compassion for Irma Almanac, who had suffered violence from her husband, because this went on ‘behind closed doors’.

    To be acceptable one has to be not smart, not beautiful and have no talent which was why they were all jealous of Tilly. Others suggested that acceptance required being a bully or at least not rocking the boat.

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