The Dressmaker of Dachau

by Mary Chamberlain


The Dressmaker of Dachau- cover


“Spanning the intense years of war, The Dressmaker of Dachau is a dramatic tale of love, conflict, betrayal and survival. It is the compelling story of one young woman’s resolve to endure and of the choices she must make at every turn – choices which will contain truths she must confront.

London, spring 1939. Eighteen-year-old Ada Vaughan, a beautiful and ambitious seamstress, has just started work for a modiste in Dover Street. A career in couture is hers for the taking – she has the skill and the drive – if only she can break free from the dreariness of family life in Lambeth.

A chance meeting with the enigmatic Stanislaus von Lieben catapults Ada into a world of glamour and romance. When he suggests a trip to Paris, Ada is blind to all the warnings of war on the continent: this is her chance for a new start.

Anticipation turns to despair when war is declared and the two are trapped in France. After the Nazis invade, Stanislaus abandons her. Ada is taken prisoner and forced to survive the only way she knows how: by being a dressmaker. It is a decision which will haunt her during the war and its devastating aftermath.”

This book turned out to be a surprising reading. The novel is set during the Second World War and follows the life of the young, talented, ambitious, and dreamy seamstress and model, Ada Vaughan. Her being a dreamer will lead to the fascinating Paris with the enigmatic Stanislaus von Lieben. But this new start will completely overthrow not only her dreams but also her conception of life in a now declared war. What surely makes this a unique novel is the ability to observe how the human soul reacts to situations that aim to annihilate the individual. Ada clings to her dreams, the same dreams that can help her to still feel alive and remind of her past, of her life before the war and give her hope for the future, to make her believe that she can still open her “Maison Vaughan”. So, through small daily gestures, Ada decides to fight because she still wants to live and feel alive, even though she has to make compromises.

Yet, another important theme of this novel emerges after the war. After returning home, people are not able to share their experiences of the war. They prefer to forget or rather hide their own lives, rather than re-opening painful and uncomfortable wounds, and Ada like many others, prefers to throw herself into a new, seemingly normal life. But the pain, albeit silent, is like a bomb ready to explode.

This novel deserves absolutely five out of five stars.

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