Review: The Dressmaker’s Dowry by Meredith Jaeger
Why: I love historical fiction. That pretty much sums up my answer to why I read a majority of the books I do! However, I also have a love for the city of San Francisco. Not only do my brother, sister-in-law and adorable nephew live there, but the history is so rich and complicated! The idea of ladies in fancy gowns with rows of buttons strolling down cobblestone streets along the bay makes my little heart pitter patter! I even went back to my childhood and read about San Francisco for an early LQ review!
In the Barbary Coast, every day was a roll of the dice.
Story: The Dressmaker’s Dowry is actually the story of two women, told simultaneously. Sarah lives in present-day San Francisco in the midst of the tech boom, while Hanna works to provide for herself and her siblings in San Francisco’s rough 1870s. Sarah is drawn into Hanna’s story while researching the city’s past, and finds that the women have quite a bit in common. Not everyone is excited for Sarah’s discoveries to come to light, though. As she pieces together Hanna’s struggles of love and loss, Sarah’s own undoing may just be beginning.
Tree branches scratched against the windowpane. Moaning like a phantom train, the wind seemed to carry the hint of a scream.
Opinion: For a first novel, Meredith Jaeger does a superb job building out plot and characters while keeping the plot fast-paced and exciting. I may not have said that immediately upon finishing the book. However, the more I go back and digest the subplots, the minor characters, and the intricacies that Jaeger built in, the more impressed I am. There are the pieces that feel a bit too convenient or far fetched, but the paperback copy is an accessible 346 pages. It’s to be expected!
Quickly, on the note of accessibility, the language and tone vary between Sarah’s story and Hanna’s. Though Hanna’s has elements of speech reminiscent of the day, it is not cumbersome. This makes the back-and-forth transitions between stories much easier to digest. I was apprehensive of the point-of-view changes, but it truly does work for this novel!
The barkeep laughed. “No need to be polite round ‘ere, girl. This is Old Sydney Town, where the next fool you meet could stab you in the back.”
Recommendation: This book checked a lot of boxes for me. It has the element of romance, the air of mystery, and the history of classic literature. Being a quick, easier read, I think this would be great for young adult readers as well as adults. It does lean to the feminine end of the scale, but I would enjoy reading (and probably writing!) a good essay on the men in this book. In conclusion, I highly recommend The Dressmaker’s Dowry, but do caution that you may want to give yourself enough free time for binge reading! I’m excited for more works by Jaeger in the future!
No one could claim her here: not her mind or the product of her hands.
Journaling Prompts: (If you haven’t read any of my other reviews, I enjoy putting together a few questions about the book for those that have already read, or choose to read the book after viewing this post!)
- Describe the similarities between Hanna and Sarah.
- Describe the similarities between Lucas and Hunter.
- Both Hanna and Sarah have hobbies that reflect their mothers. What are they?
- How do the hobbies listed above work to depict alternate realities for the women?
- What purpose does the story of Sarah’s friend Jen play? How does it embrace an overall theme to the book?
- Why do you think that Margaret did not tell Hanna about the baby?
- As always, does the ending of the book satisfy you? Why or why not? Are there lingering questions?
Special thanks to TLC Book Tours for the book in exchange for my honest review!