The satisfaction of revenge


Forgive and forget, or at least forgive and get over it, might be good advice for our souls/karma/general state of mental health. But, you know, there’s something so very satisfying about a great revenge story.

The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham is one of my favourite books. I reviewed it enthusiastically five years ago, when I picked it for my library’s online book club read of the month. I was *super* excited when I heard it was being filmed.

Ah, and what a fantastic job they’ve done of making it into a film. I loved it! It looked perfect. I was completely emotionally engaged with it – laughing at the humour, recoiling from the revolting, gasping at the transformations worked by the amazing dresses. I wept buckets at the sad bits (in fact, I started crying before the sad bits because I knew they were coming). It was a fantastic two hours and I emerged from the cinema dehydrated and blinking at the reality of the world.

Which is pretty much the same effect the book has on me – the immersion just lasts a little longer.

I particularly love two things about this story. The first is that it doesn’t box itself into being just one thing. If you want a rom-com with a happy ever after – er, no. If you want a serious examination of the dark recesses of humanity – look out, Mad Molly’s made the hash brownies a little stronger this time. But it is romantic, and comedic, and tragic – sometimes at the same time. And that’s great storytelling.

The other is that Tilly’s sewing skills and eye for fashion can transform the way the women of the town look, but she can’t change what they are really like. A fabulous dress does not make you a nice person. Old secrets are raked up and resolved, but Tilly is not forgiven, and not accepted. Not because there’s something wrong with her, but because there is something wrong – something closed off and soured – about the people of Dungatar.

They forego their opportunity to transform. And so it’s up to Tilly to force that transformation in an incredibly satisfying revenge scene.

The director, Jocelyn Moorhouse is said to have decribed the movie as Clint Eastwood’s “Unforgiven with a sewing machine”, and that’s pretty much perfect. 

So if you’re in the mood for a gunslinger in Dior, I highly recommend you go and see The Dressmaker. And, if you really want a treat, read the book too.

An enticing, genre-blending book

glamouristsOnce you start messing with your genres, things can get confusing.

You know what Dr Spengler said – “Don’t cross the streams.”

So should a writer stay well inside the lines, genre-wise?  Well, you may also recall that, actually, crossing the streams worked out fine, and I like to think that genres are there to be played with. Still, it can be tricky knowing what to call your chosen genre once you’ve done a bit of blurring and blending.

That’s why my writing inspiration for today comes from Mary Robinette Kowal, whose Glamourist Histories are fabulous historical romance adventures with a dash of magic. Or to keep it simpler, urban historical fantasies. I like it!

I’ll be chairing a panel at GenreCon in Brisbane at the end of the month (you know you want to be there: go on, buy your ticket!) and this very talented author will be on that panel. So I thought I’d better catch up on the series. I had read Shades of Milk and Honey a couple of years ago, but the series is now up to its fourth, so it was time to get a reading wriggle on.

I’ve just finished the third, Without a Summer, and it was delightful. 1816 was called the year without a summer, because a massive volcanic explosion in Indonesia in the previous year continued to mess with global weather patterns, and caused widespread crop failures and heightened social unrest. It also caused bicycles to be invented and the guests at a house party on Lake Geneva to resort to telling each other ghost stories to pass the time, inadvertently creating a whole genre, but that’s another story.

Jane Austen’s books of the time give almost no acknowledgement of the political and social environment in which they occur. Although influenced by Austen, Without a Summer ties the story into the time in the best way, and seamlessly incorporates magic by having public blame for the bad weather fall on the coldmongers, who are able to manipulate folds of glamour to cool things –  but not to the extent of ruining the weather.

It was an intelligent, well told story, with engaging, flawed and likable characters – as well as a wonderful villain. I very much enjoyed reading it, and I am looking forward to meeting Mary. In fact, the only flaw with the book was on the otherwise gorgeous cover:

1916 failOh, dear. Enough to make an author weep.