Category Archives: Ham – Rosalie

The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham

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The Dressmaker by Australian author Rosalie Ham was made into a wonderful movie starring Kate Winslet and a mob of Australia’s best actors last year. Since watching the movie I had been looking forward to reading the book, especially since having read There Should be More Dancing by Rosalie Ham.

The Dressmaker is set in a fictional Australian country town called Dungatar, and with a name like that, you just know it is probably out on the far side of Woop-Woop. Dungatar comprises of a railway station, a pub, general store, a police station, pharmacy and a Post Office. Everyone in town knows everybody else’s business, and ignore most of each other’s dirty little secrets, unless they can use them to their advantage. Most of the townspeople are either victims or bullies, with only a handful of genuinely kind-hearted people amongst them.

Dungatar gets the shake-up it needs when Tilly Dunnage arrives to look after her mother, Mad Molly. Molly, who lives in poverty and squalor, is suffering from dementia and neglect. Most of the townspeople have ignored Molly, who gave birth to Tilly out of wedlock, leaving her to rot in her falling down house which sits on the hill above Dungatar. Sergeant Farrar, Dungatar’s cross-dressing policeman, and the town’s poorest family, the McSwineys, were the only people who cared for Molly until Tilly’s return.

Tilly was sent away from Dungatar as a child, after the mysterious death of another child. She became a dressmaker, studying with the most famous names in couture, Dior, Balmain and Balenciaga. When Tilly returned to Dungatar, it didn’t take long for the local women to employ her skills. Very soon, most of the women are swanning around town in outfits that the rest of us could only dream of wearing. (If you are at all interested in clothes, watch the movie, The Dressmaker. The costumes are a joy to look at, glamourous and beautiful, and totally out of reach in real life. I was lucky enough to see a display of the costumes from the movie and have been dreaming about them ever since).

On returning to Dungatar, Tilly fell in love with Teddy McSwiney, and for a little while, it looked as if she had a chance of being happy, but unfortunately, this was not to be. (In the movie, Teddy is played by a Hemsworth brother, not sure which one, but they are all lovely to look at).

Eventually, Tilly decides to get her revenge, and wreaks havoc on the whole town and everyone in it, which in my opinion; served them right.

I liked The Dressmaker, with a few reservations. I’m not sure that readers from other countries would enjoy this story quite as much as an Australian reader, as a lot of the humour and descriptions are probably better suited to local tastes. The story got a bit complicated towards the end, too. My biggest complaint about the writing was how often the author mentions scrotums. Yuck. There are things I don’t need to know about, or have described to me. The mental image of a withered, dangling, tomato-like scrotum will probably stay with me longer than I would have liked.

The best things about The Dressmaker were that it doesn’t showcase Australia in the best possible light, as the plot is dark, most of the characters are nasty and the town itself is unpleasant. Mad Molly is a scream. She cuts everyone down to size in a few sarcastic words, and generally gets away with behaving as badly as she likes. (In the movie, Molly is played by the great Australian actress Judy Davis, who stole the whole show). Then, there are the clothes… (sigh of happiness). Reading about beautiful clothes is up there with reading about chocolate, or baking…

So, my advice to non-Australians would be to watch the movie, The Dressmaker, and if you really love it, follow up by reading the book.

 

 

 

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Filed under Australian Author, Author, Ham - Rosalie

There Should Be More Dancing by Rosalie Ham

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There Should Be More Dancing is by Rosalie Ham, the Australian author who wrote The Dressmaker.

The Dressmaker is on my list of books to read, but I enjoyed There Should Be More Dancing so much that it will probably get bumped up a few spots on the list. This author has a sense of humour and a style that is recognisable from The Dressmaker movie.

There Should Be More Dancing is set in Melbourne, and is the story of a dysfunctional family, told in turns by the matriarch, Margery Blandon and an omniscient third narrator. After a lifetime of doing the right thing, Margery is thinking of throwing herself off the top floor of the hotel where her family took her to celebrate her 80th birthday.

The last straw for Margery was when her family foisted Florence, an old barmaid on her, to live in the family home. According to Margery’s values, (which she cross stitches onto everything in sight), Florence is an old floozie, a “thief, a liar and an adulteress.”

Prior to Florence’s arrival in Gold Street, Margery’s daughter Judith, (who in my opinion is a cow), wants to put Margery into an old age home in order to sell the family home and reap the financial rewards, along with her no-good, wheeling and dealing husband. Margery’s eldest son, Walter, otherwise known as ‘The Brunswick Bull’, took too many hits to the head during his career as a boxer, and her other son, Morris, disappeared in Thailand and hasn’t been seen for years. Don’t ask Margery why Morris won’t come home, because while the rest of the neighbourhood know, she doesn’t. Margery’s husband, Lance, died years ago when he lit a cigarette and blew up his oxygen tank at the local pub. The explosion decimated the pub and killed another character’s husband.

I laughed my way through this book. Walter and Morris had a stand up brawl at Lance’s funeral, Margery knocks a motorcyclist off his bike driving to the local shops, (she goes the long way, in order to avoid turning right across the busy traffic on the main road), Margery and her neighbour Pat fight with each other for thirty years after Margery accidently pulled off Pat’s wig at the 1976 Ladies Legacy Luncheon. Not to mention that the neighbours steal power from Margery’s house for their drug lab.

None of these things, including the difficulties of ageing, should be funny, but the way the story is told by Margery is darkly funny and sometimes laugh-out-loud hilarious. Some of the time the story is sad.

Margery tells her story of the past and the present to her long-dead twin sister Cecily, who is the person she has always loved the most. She keeps saying, the truth will out, and eventually it does. The reader sees the truth long before Margery does, but the story is about how Margery deals with the truth, rather than waiting for revealing twists and turns in the story.

There Should Be More Books by Rosalie Ham is a motto which I want to cross stitch on to something.

 

 

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Filed under Australian Author, Author, Book Review, Ham - Rosalie