Friday, October 18, 2013
The Midnight Dress
Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2013
Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
This book was not on my radar until I saw a couple of positive reviews from bloggers I adore (see below). Then I was desperate for a copy and am pleased to share my thoughts with you today though the book was not as strong for me as it was for those reviewers.
I think my big difficulty was the writing style. It is very literary with many evocative passages bringing to life all the life in this Australian town, human, animal, and plants alike. And I could not get into it. I am a reader who tends to prefer a more commercial straightforward style but can appreciate more elevated writing on occasion; this was not one of those occasions. Additionally the first part of each chapter is in italics to indicate that it takes place in the present while the longer non-italicized part is sort of a flashback leading up to the events in italics. I had so much trouble with this formatting. It made perfect sense but it was hard to read.
There are actually kind of three stories: the italicized part featuring cops looking for a missing/dead girl, the bulk of the book following the ups and downs of a friendship between Rose and Pearl as the former makes the titular dress for the annual Harvest Festival, and the life story of Edie Baker, the seamstress teaching Rose how to sew and create. By far my favorite parts were the flashbacks and insights into Edie's life though I still can't quite see the point. Sure I found it interesting but juxtaposing it against the lives of Rose and Pearl really didn't add much clarity for me.
Something I found surprising, though it shouldn't have been as I had read other reviews mentioning this, is that this story is set in 1986. It didn't feel like it was set today being that there were no mentions of cell phones or computers but other than a reference to a worldwide event in 1986 and brief mentions of Edie's family's history, the book doesn't seem very set in a particular time. The setting though is quite distinct as mentioned above especially describing the lush natural world around them, not that I was much interested.
Something I didn't find surprising was the ultimate resolution. I figured out pretty quickly what would be revealed about that girl and I didn't want my suspicions confirmed. I also found the very end frustrating and heartbreaking-all one character wants is X to happen but for reasons, it never will.
Overall: Alas this book and I just did not click as the writing style did not fit my mood. I also think I might have been better off reading a happier tale at this point but what can you do?
Jen Ryland/YA Romantics
The Flyleaf Review