Review: The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee

Title: The Midnight Dress

Author: Karen Foxlee

Published UQP February 2013

Status: Read from March 14 to 15, 2013 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Will you forgive me if I tell you the ending?

The Midnight Dress begins with a girl waiting anxiously in the darkness, the sounds of the town celebrating echoing in the distance, wondering what she will say when he comes for her. This is the girl that will disappear, the girl wearing the midnight dress.

The narrative shifts between the present, as a Detective searches for the missing girl, and the past as present as the midnight dress comes to be. Rose arrives in the small northern Queensland town of Paradise with her alcoholic father, is befriended by Pearl despite her reluctance and with the Harvest Parade celebration imminent agrees to work with the eccentric Edie Baker to create a dress for the occasion. A midnight dress of deep navy blue, mourning lace and glass beads, hand sewn by Rose while she listens to the stories Edie has to share.

I saw The Midnight Dress labeled as ‘rural Australian gothic’ (I am not really sure where – sorry about that) and thought it the perfect description. It has many of the elements associated with the genre – a wild, isolated landscape, a crumbling house, an illicit love affair, a lurking sense of something ‘other’.

The suspense is finely crafted, despite the intertwining narrative that foreshadows the grief and loss. There is a haunted quality that reminds me of The Picnic at Hanging Rock, it has that sense of an inexorable slide towards tragedy, of menace waiting to take advantage of innocence.

The Midnight Dress is beautifully written with a lyrical rhythm and evocative language. I felt as though I could step inside Edie Baker’s house, crowded with decaying junk, mildewed fabric and lost dreams. Gaze upon the looming mountain covered with dense forest, a waterfall burbling in the distance as the sweat of tropical humidity trickles uncomfortably down my spine. Spy on Pearl’s flirtation with Paul amongst the tiny, musty rooms of the book exchange.

Despite the teenage protagonist I would say this novel exceeds the boundaries of young adult fiction, it is more than a coming of age tale even as it delves into the angst of adolescence. The Midnight Dress is compelling, a story of loss, of yearning and dark enchantment and leaves me eager to read more from Karen Foxlee.

Available to Purchase

@UQP@Boomerang Books I @Booktopia

via Booko

Preorder for US release @Amazon



9 thoughts on “Review: The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee

  1. I’ve just Foxlee’s younger readers book Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy. It was an incredibly magical experience.
    I’m so glad to see her YA/adult books are of a similar nature – can’t wait to get into them 🙂


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