Review Blog

Jun 06 2013

The midnight dress by Karen Foxlee

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University of Queensland Press, 2013. ISBN 9780702249648
(Ages: Upper secondary-adult) Highly recommended. Crime. Queensland. Rose and her father are drifters. They arrive in a North Queensland cane town a few weeks before the Harvest Festival. When Rose eventually enrolls at the local school she meets up with an unlikely friend, Pearl.
Rose is prickly, self-contained and doesn't make or seek to make friends. Initially she doesn't want anything to do with the harvest dance or the parade and certainly won't get a dress made. Pearl gets under her skin and she meets Edie an old woman who is a dress maker. No one goes to Edie anymore. She lives in an old rambling Queenslander that is falling down around her ears. The rainforest is encroaching on Edie's property and even her house and the mountain and Edie seem to have a connection.
Edie is another self-contained person. She has had to be because the community has shunned her for years. She agrees to organise Rose's dress as long as she sews it by hand. Edie knows just the dress for her and fossicks around the rooms for the materials she needs. While she teaches Rose the stitches and techniques she tells Rose her history, and about the special hut up the mountain her parents built.
The narrative is interspersed by the narrative of a detective from Cairns there to investigate a missing girl. Karen Foxlee weaves an evocative tale with the North Queensland weather and landscape as an important player. It's in this environment that the people come to life reflecting small town attitudes and unique personalities. A great read, good characters and gripping finale.
Mark Knight

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