Review: The One and Only Dolly Jamieson by Lisa Ireland

Title: The One and Only Dolly Jamieson

Author: Lisa Ireland

Published: 10th January 2023, Michael Joseph

Status: Read January 2023 courtesy Penguin Books Australia


My Thoughts:

The One and Only Dolly Jamieson is a charming and uplifting novel from Australian author Lisa Ireland.

Once a sought after Broadway/West End performer and television star, seventy-eight year old Dolly Jamieson spends her days in a London library, and her nights in a stranger’s rarely used shed. There’s little danger of her being recognised as no one wishes to look too closely at the homeless, in fact most people choose to ignore her. Dolly tries not to take offence, she knows she doesn’t look, or smell, her best but she misses being seen.

When Jane Leveson stumbles into the library, looking lost and on the verge of tears, Dolly feels compelled to reach out and offer the woman comfort. Jane sees past Dolly’s worn coat and unkempt hair and their conversation sparks a connection that grows as Jane offers to help Dolly turn her scribbled notes into a memoir.

With a dual timeline that shifts smoothly between the past and present, we learn how Dolly, born Margie Ferguson in Geelong, Victoria, overcame hardship and tragedy in her determination to become a star, and the subsequent trajectory of her life. Despite the ills that have befallen her, and the mistakes she has made, Dolly is a delightful character, and admire her optimism.

As she and Jane work together to tell Dolly’s story Ireland reveals more about what is troubling Jane. Dolly’s gentle sympathy and nonjudgmental attitude is a balm to Jane who is struggling under the weight of her own regrets. Ireland stunned me with the reveal of Jane’s whole story, it a was very unexpected and hit hard.

Ireland addresses a number of sensitive issues in the novel including adoption and suicide, but particularly highlights the shocking increase in homelessness amongst women aged 65 and over, and includes a note that outlines the extent of the problem.

Written with warmth, tenderness and humour, The One and Only Dolly Jamieson is a really lovely read.


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4 thoughts on “Review: The One and Only Dolly Jamieson by Lisa Ireland

  1. Thank you for sharing! I don’t know if you’ve read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, but the premise (I think the specific line about celebrity memoir) feels a little similar to this book. I love that the characters interacting in this book, though, seem to be borne out of the celebrity’s kindness and willingness to engage with another person. I’m really interested in reading perspectives about life after a celebrity career, especially for women, whether fiction or non-fiction.

    claire @ clairefy

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The plight of the unhoused is so tragic; this novel sounds like it gives the people sympathy and empathy. Our town has a locked parking lot at night for unhoused women so that they can be safe. It’s a start, but not enough.

    Liked by 1 person

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