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Monday, 19 October 2009

Review: The Dresskeeper

Author: Mary Naylus

Release date: 30th November 2009 UK
Genre: Historical fiction
Target audience: 12+

Amazon says:
When Picky's Mum forces her to look after Gran, who has dementia, Picky is accidentally transported back to the year 1685, where a man in a wig insists she is someone called Amelia and tries to kill her. Managing to get the dress off just in time, Picky returns to the present with the dress covered in blood. Who is Amelia? Is she dead? Will wearing the other dresses in the chest take Picky back in time too? And does she dare put herself in danger again?

Review:
As a rule, I do not read novels that involve time travel. I prefer novels to be set fully in the historical period that the author wishes to explore. I have no idea where this prejudice emerged from but it is part of my identity as a reader. However, having just finished The Dresskeeper I have had my foolish dislike of this device eradicated. Naylus uses the time travel device expertly and it allows her to have her very contemporary protagonist explore 17th century London. Picky Robson was a convincing teenager whose comical voice hooked me in from the very first chapter. Penelope - known as Picky by her family - has a painfully negative body image and an amusing take on the world around her. She dislikes the vain and shallow Demon Worshippers at school but like the other students, she does not have the courage to stand up to them. The bullying she faces is treated with care and humour by Naylus.

I really liked the fact that Picky was a teenage carer, looking after her Grandma on weekends. I'm sure young people in similar postitions of responsibility will relate to Picky's frustration, resentment and guilty feelings concerning her role as a carer.  This is by no means a heavy novel although it explores important issues in the life of its narrator. Picky tells the story in such an amusing way that I often chuckled at her particular world view. As a School Librarian myself, I was tickled by Picky's suspicion that Mrs Hamperton spent her weekends cataloguing her underwear drawer. I had to laugh out loud.

The historical landscape of 17th century London is charmingly described with all Picky's usual eloquence as having "crap in the streets". The appalling living conditions of the poor, small pox, the issue of the slave trade and arranged marriages are all woven into a riveting narrative. Picky is a determined heroine who is out to save the life of her 17th century alter-ego, Amelia. She is certainly not Sherlock Holmes but perseveres admirably.

Overall, I highly recommend this book. The characterisation of Picky is superb and the novel moves at a great pace. The plot is interesting and the mystery of the murderer kept me guessing until the very end. The modern voice will appeal to fans of authors like Meg Cabot. The beautiful dresses and depiction of 17th century London will appeal to fans of historical fiction. The Dressmaker is thoroughly entertainly, enthralling and amusing. I really enjoyed reading it and am impressed by the quality Naylus's first novel.

19 comments:

I Want to Read That said...

I am just over half way through and really enjoying it:) I agree about it appealing to fans of Meg Cabot - I was thinking that myself!

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Fantastic review. I'm going to be reviewing this very soon as well.

The Book Bug said...

I really want to read that... Nice review, I dont usually read time travel books either...

TBB

Lauren said...

Excellent review. I just started this one and I'm liking it a lot! And yep, Picky is a *great* voice. She's cracking me up.

Nina said...

Great review. Never heard of this book before, but it does sounds interesting. :P
Thank you.

La Coccinelle said...

This sounds good! I wonder if it will be released over here...

La Coccinelle said...

Oh, and I've got something for you. You can pick it up here.

Chicklish said...

It sounds good (especially as I'm a huge Meg Cabot fan!) Thanks for the review.

The Book Owl said...

Great review! I'm glad this is getting good reviews. I wanted it to be good. haha

brizmus said...

I've been reading so much about this book, and somehow I didn't realize that it takes place in 17th century London. Hmm. . .Great review! Picky sounds cool, even if she does have a weird name.

Kath said...

Great review, I'm excited to read this one!

Kelsey said...

Nice review. I really like the travel back in time idea!

~*Ruby*~ said...

whee! i love historical fiction.
it looks like a good read but we don't have this book in my country yet!

Nikki @ Bookizzle said...

17th century London AND time travel? Count me in. Wonderful review. Sounds like something I'd really enjoy. :)

Bhumi said...

This sounds like a great book! I'm glad you liked it.

Lenore said...

I love time travel integrated into novels. LOVE!

Jenny N. said...

Its actually my first time hearing about this book and it sounds very good. Definately something I would be interested in reading.

Chrizette said...

I am looking forward to reading this one!

Bianca said...

I haven't really read a book about time travel but this sounds interesting! Nice review.