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The Dress Lodger
The Dress Lodger
Author: Sheri Holman
In Sunderland, England, a city quarantined by the cholera epidemic of 1831, a defiant, fifteen-teen-year old beauty in an elegant blue dress makes her way between shadow and lamp light. A potter's assistant by day and dress lodger by night, Gustine sells herself for necessity in a rented gown, scrimping to feed and protect her only love: her...  more »
ISBN-13: 9780345436917
ISBN-10: 0345436911
Publication Date: 1/2/2001
Pages: 320
Rating:
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 216

3.4 stars, based on 216 ratings
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Book Type: Paperback
Other Versions: Hardcover, Audio Cassette, Audio CD
Reviews: Member | Amazon | Write a Review

Top Member Book Reviews

reviewed The Dress Lodger on + 11 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 13
This is one of those books you will either love or hate. It is a very depressing book about a very depressing time. I found the history fascinating and the story boring. I had very little empathy for the main characters other than the poor fiance of Dr. Chivers. I did learn some history, but otherwise.. a waste.
reviewed The Dress Lodger on + 6 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 12
Beautifully written but a little lacking in plot, I felt. Historically, it was fascinating. Although the main character is a prostitute, I felt there were parts that were unneccessarily and almost gratuitously crude. Also, the voice was a little hard to get used to at first, it begins in second person. Overall, worth reading for the insight into the history and for the artistic writing style but not for an overwhelmingly great plot.
reviewed The Dress Lodger on + 56 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 9
I enjoyed this read...a very dark, haunting original and richly written novel about the Cholera epidemic in London in the 1830's. Gustine, the main character was gritty, intelligent and wise beyond her young 15 years. The style of writing was unique and the book grips you from the first page.
reviewed The Dress Lodger on + 749 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 7
Finished reading this today and I was pleasantly surprised. Although the writing style of Holman - speaking in the 2nd person - was a little disconcerting at first, you get used to it as the story progresses. The story was very captivating and disturbing about the life of a young prostitute during the Cholera epidemic of 1831. Gustine is a "dress lodger" -- a prostitute who rents a dress from her landlord and then sells herself on the street. Interwoven into the novel is the story of Dr. Henry Chivers, a doctor who specializes in anatomy and his quest for human cadavers to further his studies and teachings. Gustine crosses paths with Dr. Chivers on her quest to save her infant son who was born with his heart outside his body. Holman excellently captures the superstitions of the times as the cholera epidemic affects the people of the town. She really delves into the depressing conditions during that time period and the inhumanities of man. Overall, an excellent read!
reviewed The Dress Lodger on + 13 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 7
Could not get into it, so I did not finish it. I recommend the Crimson Petal and the White or Slammerkin instead.
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reviewed The Dress Lodger on + 398 more book reviews
Loved it. I really enjoyed the 2nd person style of writing, like I was being let I on the behind the scenes stuff. This is a complicated story about an orphan girl who becomes a prostitute and has a baby with its heart born outside its chest. It is also the story of emerging medicine and mostly the cholera epidemic as it spread around the world. The characters are very well developed and you soon learn that the value of a poor man's life, and body, don't compare to a rich one's. The filth and ignorance are abhorrent but you really feel the environment and how it affects these people. A great read. I want a movie where Johnny Depp, or better yet, Robert Downey Jr. plays the young doctor.
reviewed The Dress Lodger on + 29 more book reviews
This is an interesting book. I found it very gloomy and a pretty accurate picture of street life in the lower class of 1830 London. Debates the ethics of grave robbing and has some unique characters. If you are bothered by the harsher elements of life during this time, you may want to chose another book. If you're fascinated though, this is a good read. It's hard to remember just how different and difficult life was before the industrial age, but this book will remind you of how grateful we should be for our modern enviroment.
reviewed The Dress Lodger on + 5 more book reviews
Set in 1831 Sunderland during the cholera epidemic, Holman's book plays with the conventions of the 19th century British novel. With a resourceful prostitute heroine and the vivid historical detail of The Crimson Petal and the White, a 'modern' man possessed of complicated or questionable morality as in The French Lieutenant's Woman, and a sprawling cast of characters a la Dickens, The Dress Lodger meditates on prostitution, pestilence, and class warfare in an unusual narrative. Though wrapped in period-specific details (maybe more details than you ever wanted to know about potteries), many of the situations Holman writes echo in the present: the economic uses to which the body is put; the status of medicine and the methods and motives of its arbiters; and the difficulty of creating alliances and bridging the gap between classes.

Guided by an mysterious (or irritating, depending on the reader) plural narrator, readers are swept around the city experiencing its sights, sounds, and smells. Gustine, a teenage potter's assistant by day and a dress lodger (prostitute in a fashionable rented gown) by night, works to keep her baby well-fed and comfortable. She assists Dr. Henry Chiver in procuring cadavers to study; the young doctor is obsessed with anatomy and dissection but is under a cloud for his connection to the murderers-cum-cadaver-providers Burke and Hare. As the paths of paupers and the privileged, humans and animals, and the living and the dead intersect, the fear, anger, and illness stalking Sunderland reach a boiling point.

It should be a fascinating book and I certainly enjoyed it but I didn't come to be particuarly emotionally invested in the characters and their lives. The upsetting events that befall the characters didn't have a big impact on me. But if historical fiction is your cup of tea, this is a diverting read.


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