The Dressmaker’s Secret by Rosalie Ham

‘Now here she was, the sad mess of her life enduring and another past from which to flee.’

In this sequel to the wonderfully quirky ‘The Dressmaker’, we find Tilly Dunnage in Melbourne.  It is 1953, and Melbourne society is looking forward to several events around the coronation of the young princess who is about to become Queen Elizabeth II.  And appropriate dresses will be required.  Tilly is working in a pretentious, second-rate salon in Collins Street where she is underpaid and unappreciated.  Why?  Because Tilly is keen to remain anonymous as she tries to escape from the past.

But the past is not quite so keen to let go of Tilly.  Sergeant Farrat and the McSwiney clan have been looking for her, as are the residents of Dungatar.  While the former might have Tilley’s best interests at heart, the residents want revenge.  Well, some of them would just like some new frocks.

I loved ‘The Dressmaker’ (novel and film) and this novel is a worthy (albeit darker) sequel.  Can Tilly succeed, despite the odds stacked against her?  How many of her secrets will she be able to keep?  There are some delightful laugh-out-loud moments (where would we be without Horatio Farrat?), some beautiful creations to admire and some very tricky moments to negotiate.

While I did not enjoy this quite as much as ‘The Dressmaker’, I am longing for it to be turned into a film so I can admire the dresses Tilly creates.

I strongly recommend reading ‘The Dressmaker’ first.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Pan MacMillan Australia for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes. 

Jennifer Cameron-Smith