The book in the January Bookish Escape Crate was Tea Cooper's latest novel, The Woman in the Green Dress, which tells us the stories of two strong young women living over 60 years apart. I had actually just finished reading a copy I had received from the publishers when my Escape Crate arrived, and I was excited to see this book had been chosen, since I was keen to chat about it!
Here’s the blurb from the publisher’s website:
1853 Mogo Creek, NSW
Della Atterton, bereft at the loss of her parents, is holed up in the place she loves best: the beautiful Hawkesbury in New South Wales. Happiest following the trade her father taught her, taxidermy, Della has no wish to return to Sydney. But the unexpected arrival of Captain Stefan von Richter on a quest to retrieve what could be Australia's first opal, precipitates Della's return to Sydney and her Curio Shop of Wonders, where she discovers her enigmatic aunt, Cordelia, is selling more than curiosities to collectors. Strange things are afoot and Della, a fly in a spider's web, is caught up in events with unimaginable consequences…
1919 Sydney, NSW
When London teashop waitress Fleur Richards inherits land and wealth in Australia from her husband, Hugh, killed in the war, she wants nothing to do with it. After all, accepting it will mean Hugh really is dead. But Hugh's lawyer is insistent, and so she finds herself ensconced in the Berkeley Hotel on Bent St, Sydney, the reluctant owner of a Hawkesbury property and an old curio shop, now desolate and boarded up.
As the real story of her inheritance unravels, Fleur finds herself in the company of a damaged returned soldier Kip, holding a thread that takes her deep into the past, a thread that could unravel a mystery surrounding an opal and a woman in a green dress; a green that is the colour of envy, the colour buried deep within an opal, the colour of poison…
This was a fun read that I just flew through. I've talked before about how I love a story set across time, and I thought the two narratives came together really nicely in this one. I really like the way that it felt as though the shadow of the 1853 story was right there in the background of the 1919 events.
There was a little bit of romance in this book, but I really liked that the main focus was the strength of the two young women, and their determination to be in charge of their own futures, instead of simply doing what was expected of them by their families and the societies of their times. The book touches a bit on the relationship (if that's the right word for it) between white settlers and the Indigenous people of the area where it's set.
I did think the pacing was a bit funny at the end of the book - I was enjoying it so much and feel like the resolution of the stories came very suddenly and the ending was a bit abrupt. I was really enjoying getting to know the characters, and I think it would be great to have some of their story in that gap between the two narratives filled in a bit more! Like I noted above, there were some clues in the 1919 narrative about what had happened to Della, but I'd love to read more about her! Della's aunt Cordelia was also an intriguing character, and I think it could be quite fun to find out a bit more about what she had been up to before Della returned to Sydney.
I gave this one 3 stars, and think it would be a good read for fans of Kate Morton.