Wednesday, December 15, 2010
The Dress Lodger: Review
Once upon a time, (I don't remember what prompted me to do so...a review I read somewhere, a synopsis of the book, perhaps both of these or neither) I put The Dress Lodger by Sheri Holman on my TBR wish list. And there it sat until I came across a nice, gently used copy at my local library's used book shop. I promptly brought it home and put it on the physical TBR pile(s) gracing my back bedroom. Then, this week I found myself at loose ends. I've finished all my formal book challenges for 2010. It's not yet time to begin those that I've signed up for in 2011 and I wanted a little break from Georgette Heyer. So, I picked up Holman's book in anticipation of finally reading what I expected to be a fine book.
Oh. My. This book has what I can only describe as one of the most god-awful opening two chapters I have ever read. And the weird, omniscient, yet second person point of view is incredibly irritating. Stilted writing. Bore you to tears historical detail about beating clay for pottery for heaven's sake (among every other detail about the early 1800s that you never wanted to know). This book has all the right elements for an extremely fascinating historical read used in every way to their worst advantage.
Set in Sunderland, England during the cholera epidemic of 1831, it follows the stories of a beautiful 15 year old girl who works at the pottery yards by day and as a dress lodger by night (read prostitute in a fancy dress) and a doctor who wants to find a way to provide bodies for research and knowlege to better combat the diseases that face the people of this tragic time. She is trying desperately to support her frail young son....a son who could benefit from the doctor's help. The two lives become entwined....but the suspicion that follows those who dare to be doctors make life difficult.
As I said...if you read the synopsis, this book has all the elements for a terrific historical story. Except the one thing every piece of fiction needs...engaging story-telling. At no point did I ever really care about Gustine and her baby. I didn't really care if Dr. Henry Chiver was able to help her or anyone else. The reader was meant to feel the heartbreak and become invested in the tragedy of these lives. I found myself wishing I had invested my time elsewhere.
I have always said that I am perfectly willing to praise a book to the skies or reveal how badly it stinks. I have no problem giving a poor review. This one rates half a star...and I'm not sure that this isn't being generous. There are only 16 days left in this year....I will be hard pressed to find another book which will be a greater disappointment to me. At this point, The Dress Lodger has the dubious honor of being the worst read of 2010.