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The Dressmaker: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Posie Graeme-Evans
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $10.99
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Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
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Book Description

From international bestselling author Posie Graeme-Evans comes the passionate tale of a woman ahead of her time.


Ellen Gowan is the only surviving child of a scholarly village minister and a charming girl disowned by her family when she married for love. Growing up in rural Norfolk, Ellen’s childhood was poor but blessed with affection. Resilience, spirit, and one great talent will carry her far from such humble beginnings. In time, she will become the witty, celebrated, and very beautiful Madame Ellen, dressmaker to the nobility of England, the Great Six Hundred.


Yet Ellen has secrets. At fifteen she falls for Raoul de Valentin, the dangerous descendant of French aristocrats. Raoul marries Ellen for her brilliance as a designer but abandons his wife when she becomes pregnant. Determined that she and her daughter will survive, Ellen begins her long climb to success. Toiling first in a clothing sweat shop, she later opens her own salon in fashionable Berkeley Square though she tells the world – and her daughter - she’s a widow. One single dress, a ballgown created for the enigmatic Countess of Hawksmoor, the leader of London society, transforms Ellen’s fortunes, and as the years pass, business thrives. But then Raoul de Valentin returns and threatens to destroy all that Ellen has achieved.


In The Dressmaker, the romance of Jane Austen, the social commentary of Charles Dickens and the very contemporary voice of Posie Graeme-Evans combine to plunge the reader deep into the opulent, sinister world of teeming Victorian England. And if the beautiful Madame Ellen is not quite what she seems, the strength of her will sees her through to the truth, and love, at last.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Big girls in 19th-century England don't cry in Graeme-Evans's light tale about a plucky heroine who endures a series of harsh trials on her way to becoming London's leading dressmaker. Things start to go south for curate's daughter Ellen Gowan on her 13th birthday, when the dress Connie, her mother, makes her, entices one of her father's students to steal a kiss. Scandal and ruination seem imminent when her father dies, forcing mother and daughter to seek refuge with Connie's sister, who lives in terror of her baronet husband. There, Ellen's friendship with her cousin, Oriana, blossoms, until once again a young man stirs trouble, and Connie and Ellen land in London, where Connie succumbs to illness and Ellen marries a cad who leaves her pregnant and alone. But with a little help from friends, family, and unlikely sources, Ellen becomes the go-to creator of "all manner of finery" for England's most prominent families. Yes, it's formulaic, far-fetched, and soppy with sentiment, but it's also a lot of fun, and Graeme-Evans (The Innocent) is unapologetic in her celebration of the joys of pretty clothes and the thrills of overcoming adversity.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“A lot of fun, and Graeme-Evans is unapologetic in her celebration of the joys of pretty clothes and the thrills of overcoming adversity.” --Publishers Weekly

Product Details

  • File Size: 743 KB
  • Print Length: 468 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books (October 12, 2010)
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003UYUP0I
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #189,641 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 23 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A fairly worthless book July 16, 2011
I picked this book up on a whim when in the bookstore, intrigued by the subject and the setting. I love historical fiction, especially if it's accurate, my background is in costume design, and the back cover proclaimed it to be comparable to Philippa Gregory's novels. All right, I thought, I'll give it a try.

I read the whole thing, mostly because I rarely leave books unfinished, and also because I kept hoping that there would be a redeeming quality in there somewhere. After an uncomfortable day and a half, however, I closed the book on a serious disappointment.

First of all: the language. Most of the sentences are one to five words long, which seems to have been done on purpose in order to sound like spoken language, but it has the unfortunate effect of making the author and characters appear stupid, since they can't even muster up the intelligence to combine two sentence fragments together.

Each character speaks in exactly the same language; no one, no matter where he or she is from or what each character's past has been, deviates from the author's voice at all, except when a bit of nondescript French is thrown in. I really would have appreciated at least a nod to variations in ages--for instance, little Connie's language should be at least a little more immature than her mother's! That alone makes it a tedious read.

The commas after "And, she said..." and "But, it was..." are something the editor should have fixed, and they make the book annoying. They are scattered throughout and really got under my skin. And the tone of the language in general--oh, boy.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Ellen's life is happy until her 13th birthday. She lives with her parents, her father, a village minister and teacher, and her mother, disowned from her family when she married for love. When she is kissed by a wealthy family's son, a series of unpleasant events occurs, including the death of her father, their eviction from the home, forcing them to beg for a place to live from her mother's sister and her wealthy, but cruel husband. After several violent incidents, they seek refuge with the sister's dressmaker, where they work and Ellen's talents for drawing become apparent. After leaving for London to seek their fortune, Ellen falls into further peril due to the dressmaker's son and ends up married to him. She becomes pregnant, he leaves, and she must make her own way in the world. Through the first part of the novel, it reminds me of Tess of the D'Ubervilles, although the series of tragedies lessens over the course of the book. We see a young woman find her own path, partly through some lucky breaks, and make a future for herself and her child. When this life is threatened, Ellen must decide how to protect it. This was a decent historical fiction with some flaws, but also some redeeming qualities as well.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very, Very Predictable June 6, 2012
Ellen Gowan wakes up on her 13th birthday and expects the sun to go down on a happy day. However, before the day is over, her father is dead, her mother is in a comatose state. Young Ellen is left with much to shoulder in her small English village. Even at the young age of thirteen, she manages to get together a funeral for her father, write letters to the archbishop about the death of her father and muddle on through the tragedy.

When Ellen's mother, Connie, finally comes out of her comatose state, they depart to the unhappy family of Ellen's aunt, where Ellen soon becomes fast friends with her cousin, Oriana. However, more unhappy times follow and Ellen and her mother are thrown out and must make their own way in London. Some happy times take place there but soon Ellen will be left alone and helpless once more at the age of 15. And so it goes.

Did I mention that this story is somewhat depressing? However, Ellen will rise above many other hardships to become a well established dressmaker to English aristrocracy. This book read like a Cinderella story or a fairy tale. Sometimes I thought that the style of writing was written for the young adult market.

The book is readable; it is not awful but just really overly dramatic and very, very predictable and actually a bit depressing.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Very disappointing January 23, 2012
Let me start by saying I truly enjoyed the first book in Posie Graeme-Evans trilogy. I have the other two books still to read, and I'm very glad I didn't read "The Dressmaker" first, or I never would have purchased the trilogy. I almost always finish the books I start, but in this case I could not. The dialog was stilted and though she does have some beautiful prose, the interaction, situations and outcome feel forced and unnatural.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as the trilogy but still entertaining December 21, 2010
By Elena M
I loved "The Innocent", "The Exiled", and the "Uncrowned Queen" so I was really excited about this book. I finished it today and even though it was nearly not as good as the trilogy, I still enjoyed it. It felt contrived, so almost from the beginning the story didn't feel very exciting or original. But I love period literature, and this author writes so well, so the descriptions of mid-century England, culture and people were fun to read. I can see myself re-reading "The Innocent" trilogy, but I don't think I'll re-read this one.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Woven as beautifully as the threads the characters wear
Posie Graeme-Evans has an authentic voice and unique turn of phrase, which were delicious to relish. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Niamh Barry
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent story by a wonderful author Posie Graeme Evans
Loved the story. It kept me enthralled all the way through the book. I would recommend the book to everyone.
Published 2 months ago by Deborah L. Eyre
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Read!
I loved everything about this book. The writing was superb with multi-dimensional characters I fell in love with! I will definitely be reading more from this author.
Published 3 months ago by "D" Book Lover
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A really good book - enjoyed it immensely.
Published 6 months ago by Barbara J Shingler
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it!
Well written story about a woman's struggle for survival, love, family. The characters around her are also real, sometimes good, sometimes bad, but seldom pure black or white. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Agnes Felklne Szanyi
3.0 out of 5 stars book club
A good but not great read. Read it for book club. Will promote lots of discussion, which is always good.
Published 13 months ago by Florence Boulden
5.0 out of 5 stars Love it!
Love this author, so glad I discovered her.....can't wait for the next book!!! I get lost in her books and am sad when they have to end.
Published 19 months ago by BeyondBlessed
4.0 out of 5 stars A Quick Read
Needed cruise reads and this was a good one. Lots of drama, some romance and a happy ending in a believable historical background.
Published 22 months ago by jscreative
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book!!
I loved this book and the characters in it. A very good story line and kept my interest and made me really think!
Published 22 months ago by M. Brothers
5.0 out of 5 stars Sometimes I never want the story to end
I enjoy Posie Graeme-Evans' writing and look for her novels when I'm going on vacation. As with all stories that span a significant portion of the main character's life, you... Read more
Published on April 15, 2013 by Leia
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More About the Author

I'm passionate about history, particularly European history between, say, the end-ish of the first millennium up until the 1480's. I get bored with the advent of the Tudors (they invented the public service. Can't bring myself to love them for that!)

Landscape moves me - particularly unpeopled landscapes - but I also adore architecture though I tend to lose interest around the Baroque and come back in again, briefly, for Georgian Architecture, then again for the Arts and Crafts movement and the 1920's.

My idea of heaven is to drive around countryside that's unfamiliar to me in Spring or Autumn, through fields and little towns with no particular agenda in mind.

Interestingly the only time my husband, Andrew, and I fight is when one of us is trying to navigate the other in unfamiliar territory - but provided we can stop somewhere beautiful that night, eat something delicious and drink good wine, alls right with the world by morning.

Andrew likes to take pictures, I don't especially. When I'm thinking of a story, its often enough for me to stand and look at something. I try to fix what it feels like to my senses, what it smelt like, for instance; was there sun, was it raining, was it cold? And, that's often enough for the process to begin: the story process.

And whilst story and factual research is a delicious process for me, I'm convinced that human beings are much the same under the skin and always have been - though language, culture, circumstances and environment will always be different.

Family is very important to me. Both my nearest kin and then, also, the extended runners of the family vine that stretch back and forward through time.

Family has taught me that love is possible though it ain't always easy. I see myself as a buoyant pessimist: that helps. The pessimist in me always has a plan B, C and D (I hope!) if things go wrong - television production teaches you that as a failsafe; but the optimist bit makes me hopeful about the future. I've been a lucky woman and I'm deeply grateful for that.

If I have a credo it's one word. Persist. Rudyard Kipling's poem "IF" sums that up for me - each phrase hits like a hammer of truth. And, on the wall of my writing room is another piece of writing that never fails to move me, particularly when I'm feeling defeated or cast down. "Today I put on the sinews of the sky, Flames of the sun, Moon's glitter, fire's astonishment..." and so it goes on. To me, it's all about the acquisition of strength when you need it most.

Warm best wishes,


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