Title: The Winter Dress
Author: Lauren Chater
Genre: Historical Fiction
Goodreads Rating: 3.92
Two women separated by centuries but connected by one beautiful silk dress. A captivating novel based on a real-life shipwreck discovered off Texel Island by the bestselling author of Gulliver’s Wife, Lauren Chater.
Jo Baaker, a textiles historian and Dutch ex-pat is drawn back to the island where she was born to investigate the provenance of a 17th century silk dress. Retrieved by local divers from a sunken shipwreck, the dress offers tantalising clues about the way people lived and died during Holland’s famous Golden Age.
Jo’s research leads her to Anna Tesseltje, a poor Amsterdam laundress turned ladies companion who served the artist Catharina van Shurman for one season at her property outside the Hague. The two women were said to be close, so why did Anna abandon Catharina at the height of her misfortune? And was the dress a gift or did Anna come by it through less honest means? Jo is determined to find out, but as she delves deeper into Anna’s history, troubling details about her own past begin to emerge, disrupting the personal narrative she has trusted for sixteen years.
On the small Dutch island of Texel where fortunes are lost and secrets lie buried for centuries, Jo will finally discover the truth about herself and her connection to the woman who wore the Winter Dress
The book was bought to my attention by my lovely friend Wendy and I very much enjoyed buddy reading this with her and Janet. I was a little late getting to the book but the ladies were patient with me and we had a lovely little chat as we went along.
I was instantly fascinated with the fact that this book was based on real events. In 2014 the 17th century dress was in fact retrieved from a sunken shipwreck and it can now be seen in a museum in Texel. Lauren Chater was also drawn to this story and decided to weave the fact and the fiction, something she does beautifully.
Flicking between the past and the present day we follow Jo and Anna’s story. I immediately felt so much compassion for Anna and the life she was leading. Through circumstances out of her control she found herself in a new country with no family or friends to comfort her. I enjoyed seeing how she was settling into her new life and the changes between herself and Catharina. Jo on the other hand felt a lot colder in comparison to Anna. Once you learn more about Jo you can understand the wall she has put up and why she finds it hard to connect with people. I felt sad for her at times, especially where Liam was concerned but felt she had evolved more by the end of the story.
This was a slow burn read, seeped in history and rich in detail, that I took my time to enjoy. The underwater scenes had my heart in my throat and confirmed that deep sea diving isn’t for me but Texel and the museum are definitely on my list of places to visit.
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