The Dressmaker of Dachau – Book Review


The Dressmaker Of Dachau book coverA Novel
by Mary Chamberlain

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On Sale: April 7, 2016
Publisher: The Borough Press
Paperback: 337 Pages


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 that will haunt her during the war and its devastating aftermath.

For readers of THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ and THE LIBRARIAN OF AUSCHWITZ, The Dressmaker of Dachau is a powerful and moving story of courage and resilience, betrayal and passion.

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This book turned out to be a surprising reading. Set during the Second World War, The Dressmaker of Dachau 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 the 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.

The Dressmaker of Dachau is absolutely a highly recommended read.

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About the author

Mary Chamberlain is a novelist and historian, author of the international best-seller,  The Dressmaker of Dachau (UK) / The Dressmaker’s War (USA). Published in the UK in 2015, and in the USA in 2016, it has now sold worldwide to 19 countries. Her second novel, The Hidden, was published by OneWorld in February 2019 and was a Sunday Times must read choice of the best recent books. She is currently working on another historical novel for publication in 2021 or 2022.

Her first book, the highly acclaimed FENWOMEN, was also the first to be published by Virago Press in 1975 and was the inspiration for Caryl Churchill’s award-winning play Fen.

Mary Chamberlain’s passion in life has been writing, and her two great loves are history and literature. After an acclaimed career as an academic historian, she began a new life as a novelist, graduating from the MA in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, London University in 2010.  Not surprisingly, the setting for her novels is in the past, rather than the present.

“There are still so many questions from the past that remain unanswered, so much that we need to understand. Fiction is another way into that understanding, can open imaginative doors that may be closed to historians. Without knowing our history, we cannot know ourselves.”

For more about Mary, check her website HERE!

Praise

“Mary Chamberlain’s haunting and poignant debut work of fiction is one readers will carry with them for years to come.”  The Historical Novels Society
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The Dressmaker of Dachau is a thrilling story, brilliantly told. I couldn’t put it down. Ada Vaughan is a character to fall in love with: utterly real, flawed and beguiling’ Saskia Sarginson, author of RICHARD &JUDY pick, The Twins and Without You ‘I found myself completely swept up in this tale of love, ambition and vanity’ Juliet West, author of Before the Fall ‘A powerful and gripping tale of longings and dreams … it is the character of Ada Vaughan that lingers, her resolve, her passion and her flaws’ Cecilia Ekback, author of Wolf Winter. ‘This novel deserves absolutely to be five out of five stars.’ Comet Readings. ‘A book not to be missed’ Shropshire Star The Dressmaker of Dachau is an engaging and satisfying novel.’ The Book Trust “Mary Chamberlain’s clear, bright prose is river-swift, and Ada Vaughan is a character rich with beautiful, flawed humanity. This is a gripping story about limits and the haunting, brutal way they can be drawn and redrawn in war.” Priya Primar, author of Vanessa and Her Sisters. “I’ve read a lot of WWII-era fiction…’The Dressmaker’s War’ was unlike any I have read…(it) offers a different perspective, a reminder of how so many people faced their own, unique hellish wars.” Andi Russell, The  Free-Lance Star,

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