As a first-time novelist writing historical fiction, I have a newfound appreciation for writers who excel at that genre. It is no mean feat to capture the time period authentically in every way: with dialogue, clothing, scenery, etc. I can tell you that Meredith Jaeger does that quite successfully in The Dressmaker’s Dowry, her debut novel about two women separated by 140 years.
The Dressmaker’s Dowry
Set in San Francisco and alternating in time between the present day and in the mid-1800s, The Dressmaker’s Dowry features modern day Sarah, a writer fascinated with an unsolved mystery and Hannelore, an immigrant dressmaker who disappeared from the gritty San Francisco streets.
The setting for Hannelore’s story is rich with sensory detail: the acrid stench in the gutters, the clatter of horse carriages careening down the rutted streets, the foreboding sense of danger around every corner.
Hannelore and her friend Margaret are seamstresses in an exclusive dress shop that services the wealthy matrons of the city. They both have younger siblings whom they struggle to provide for. Their home lives are dark and perilous, and they lean on each other for comfort.
One day a man from a privileged family enters the shop and strikes up a conversation with Hannelore, and her life takes an unexpected turn. But the very next morning Margaret has gone missing, sparking fear and a frenzied search. And later, Hannelore disappears as well.
Sarah’s story takes place in her beautiful Marina apartment overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. Coming from a modest background and married into a socially prominent San Francisco family, Sara withholds a secret from her past that she feels could destroy her marriage. She is struggling to complete a novel and then discovers a headline from 1876: Missing Dressmakers Believed to Be Murdered. Instantly intrigued, she puts the novel aside and puts on her journalist’s hat, determined to tell the story of these two women from generations ago. She becomes engrossed in the mystery and temporarily puts her insecurities on hold.
In the process of her investigation, she stumbles upon a shocking fact: she and Hannelore may be linked in ways she could have never expected. What is the connection, and will Hannelore’s disappearance ever be solved?
This is a riveting story, full of suspense and drama. As a fan of historical fiction, I love all the research that went into The Dressmaker’s Dowry, especially about the lives of the immigrants who came to San Francisco in search for a better life and endured so much hardship. The photos at the end of the book are a nice touch as well, giving the reader a visual bonus to the satisfying conclusion of the story.
One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of The Dressmaker’s Dowry. Please leave a comment below and a winner will be chosen randomly. USA addresses only, please.
I received a copy of The Dressmaker’s Dowry from William Morrow for an honest review,
which is the only kind of review I write.