The Dressmaker

A Novel

The Dressmaker

From international bestselling author Posie Graeme-Evans comes the passionate tale of a woman ahead of her time.


Ellen Gowan is the only surviving child of a scholarly village minister and a charming girl disowned by her family when she married for love. Growing up in rural Norfolk, Ellen’s childhood was poor but blessed with affection. Resilience, spirit, and one great talent will carry her far from such humble beginnings. In time, she will become the witty, celebrated, and very beautiful Madame Ellen, dressmaker to the nobility of England, the Great Six Hundred.


Yet Ellen has secrets. At fifteen she falls for Raoul de Valentin, the dangerous descendant of French aristocrats. Raoul marries Ellen for her brilliance as a designer but abandons his wife when she becomes pregnant. Determined that she and her daughter will survive, Ellen begins her long climb to success. Toiling first in a clothing sweat shop, she later opens her own salon in fashionable Berkeley Square though she tells the world – and her daughter - she’s a widow. One single dress, a ballgown created for the enigmatic Countess of Hawksmoor, the leader of London society, transforms Ellen’s fortunes, and as the years pass, business thrives. But then Raoul de Valentin returns and threatens to destroy all that Ellen has achieved.


In The Dressmaker, the romance of Jane Austen, the social commentary of Charles Dickens and the very contemporary voice of Posie Graeme-Evans combine to plunge the reader deep into the opulent, sinister world of teeming Victorian England. And if the beautiful Madame Ellen is not quite what she seems, the strength of her will sees her through to the truth, and love, at last.
  • Atria Books | 
  • 464 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743294423 | 
  • October 2010
List Price $16.00
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Dressmaker includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Posie Graeme-Evans. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Ellen Gowan’s childhood in the wilds of Norfolk is a happy one. Ellen’s parents are deeply in love, and their quiet family life is rich with affection and respect yet poor in worldly goods. But a tragic accident on Ellen’s thirteenth birthday changes the course of her childhood forever, and Ellen must find courage and strength of will beyond her years to face the hardships that follow. But undeniable artistic talent, wit, and an indomitable spirit carry her from Norfolk to London, and in time she is transformed into Madame Ellen: dressmaker to the nobility of England, the Great Six Hundred.

Beautiful Madame Ellen is burdened by the secrets she has been forced to keep along her journey, ones that could destroy the success and happiness she has fought so hard to create. She will need all that she has—will, strength, talent, and passion—to find and hold a place for herself in an unforgiving era in which women’s involvement in the world of business is a rarity.

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About the Author

Posie Graeme-Evans
Photo Credit: Melanie Lunden

Posie Graeme-Evans

Posie Graeme-Evans is the internationally bestselling author of five novels, including The Island House and The Dressmaker. She has worked in Australian film and television for the last thirty years as a director, commissioning executive and creator/producer of hundreds of hours of drama and children’s series, including the worldwide smash hit McLeod’s Daughters and Daytime Emmy nominated Hi-5. She lives in Tasmania with her husband and creative partner, Andrew Blaxland. Visit her website at