Forgotten Fridays is a monthly feature here where the four of us get together to read an older book and discuss it. There are sometimes spoilers, but we always try our best to avoid them.
This year, we’re opening up the floor to our readers too, so if you’ve read our monthly pick, don’t be shy! Link your review in the comment section to be entered into a giveaway at the end of the year.
Quiet misfit Rose doesn't expect to fall in love with the sleepy beach town of Leonora. Nor does she expect to become fast friends with beautiful, vivacious Pearl Kelly, organizer of the high school float at the annual Harvest Festival parade. It's better not to get too attached when Rose and her father live on the road, driving their caravan from one place to the next whenever her dad gets itchy feet. But Rose can't resist the mysterious charms of the town or the popular girl, try as she might.
Pearl convinces Rose to visit Edie Baker, once a renowned dressmaker, now a rumored witch. Together Rose and Edie hand-stitch an unforgettable dress of midnight blue for Rose to wear at the Harvest Festival—a dress that will have long-lasting consequences on life in Leonora, a dress that will seal the fate of one of the girls. Karen Foxlee's breathtaking novel weaves friendship, magic, and a murder mystery into something moving, real, and distinctly original.
Bekka: Kara, what made you pick The Midnight Dress?
Kara: Well, I had an ARC, but also, Mandee from The Bookish Manicurist loved this book and I remember reading the blurb and thinking I wanted to read it because it’s hard to get Aussie fic here and this one was readily available. So, what did you guys think?
Lyn: Australian fiction always seems so tragic and heartbreaking. The writing was beautiful, I will have to say.
Bekka: The writing was probably my favorite part of this one. It was quotable from page one all the way to the end.
Kara: Oooh, yeah, that reminds me, I need to go grab my book because I bookmarked a couple of quotes that I want to include in the review. Maybe I should stick them at the end. Anyway, so I really loved the writing also and I agree that it was quotable, but good lord was it wordy. I was just frustrated and my eyes kept glazing over. It was atmospheric, yeah, but I felt like it went nowhere fast and I wish it could have moved a bit faster as far as pacing goes. Thoughts on this?
Lyn: That seems like a shock since it was a short novel. I think I understand a bit. It seemed like the story was drawn out for the sake of suspense, not for the sake of the novel. It was surprising at times how long it took something to occur. I thought the parade was never going to happen.
Bekka: I have to admit, I skimmed over a lot of Edie Baker’s stories. Honestly, by the end, I don’t even think it mattered. Her stories didn’t make a lick of difference to the plot in any way. Neither did the inclusion of Murray Falconer.
Kara: Well it was a character-driven novel, and unfortunately I was not very attached to the characters. It was short but I also think there wasn’t much plot. Hahahaha, the parade. You are so right.
Also, good point, Bekka. You are right about Edie’s stories. While I kind of liked getting backstory on the town, there was a lot of unnecessary information in this one that DID add to the atmosphere but seemed to add nothing to the story at all. Same with Murray. He definitely felt tacked on. This book has me totally conflicted.
Bekka: I know this is going to sound weird, but this felt very much like an F/F romance, but the inclusion of Murray seemed tacked on by the publisher because “LGBT doesn’t sell” or something.
Lyn: I am so thrilled to see someone else got this vibe, because I just kept expecting the moment to happen, and frankly, I think it would have made the story better, and explained some of the things happening during this short amount of time!
Kara: Totally. There was a moment, and I forget when it happened exactly, where I thought the scene was going to end up in an intimate moment. Maybe just a kiss or something, but still. I am not sure why they decided to add a male love interest because I thought the book was unique without it, and I think female friendship novels are perfectly fine.
Lyn: It did seem like Murray was added in to balance out the issue. Even if this was not a F/F romance, it shouldn’t concern people when two females get very close. It was the black smudge on the novel: trying to make the book less “gay” by adding in a character that didn’t do a damn thing for the story or the characters.
Bekka: There were quite a few intimate moments between Pearl and Rose. Even if Pearl didn’t feel that way about Rose (which is understandable, given her feelings for Paul.) But I think the book would have been better if it had explored that angle instead of including some stupid boy who added nothing. Rose and Pearl cuddling on the cabin floor? Or how about Edie describing love like feeling the sky opening up or something, and then later on Rose saying that the sky opened up for Pearl? (I wish I could remember the exact quote.)
Lyn: I felt that Pearl was into Rose, like Pearl was fighting her own sexuality. She chased a guy that was “off-limits” and could possibly want her back, and she refused a guy that was accessible. Pearl started to change in her own ways after the night with Rose alone in the forest. I thought her actions was trying to erase her own feelings towards Rose.
Kara: Yup, I agree with Lyn, now that I think about it. The whole stuff with Paul was appalling, and that was really difficult for me to read, and then she turned down a guy her age that was very into her, but yet was incredibly close and touchy-feely with Rose. Totally makes sense to me that she was conflicted about her sexuality and I wish that had been explored more. What a shame.
Bekka: I think this book failed at everything it was trying to do. The relationship between Rose and Pearl wasn’t explored as deeply as it could have been. The Paul thing never had any real consequences (until the very end, obviously). And the mystery wasn’t very mysterious and ultimately flat when the culprit was revealed.
Lyn: I felt bad when the TWIST happened and I was thinking “Oh, this was suppose to be a surprise? My bad, I knew what was going on.” However, I was surprised by the person who actually did the deed.
Kara: Yeah, I totally had the ending figured out long ago too. It wasn’t shocking to me at all. I mean, I enjoyed the way it played out, but I wasn’t shocked, there was no twist to me. I am honestly surprised so many people loved this book. I ended up rating it a 3.5 but now I am thinking of lowering it after our discussion. Beautiful rating is not enough for a high rating.
Bekka: My biggest problem here (and I think I’m going to rate it lower after this) is the use of the tropes. We’re getting into lots of spoilers here, but I have to say this: Pearl was constantly used as “jail bait.” She went after Paul, there was that weird crush Rose’s dad had on her. And in the end? PEARL is the one who had to handle the consequences of it all. This book not only View Spoiler »used the dead lesbian trope « Hide Spoiler that I love so, so much, it also punished the slut who “tempted” the older men. I can’t abide by shit like this.
Kara: Yeah. While I am not as angry as you, I did feel like the book was trying to hard to be weird and edgy, and failed miserably at it because I know my eyes crossed in confusion more than once because I didn’t understand why the hell certain things were going on. Plus, as beautiful as the writing was, there were times when it veered into purple and I didn’t even understand what the hell the sentence was even about anymore. Ugh.
Lyn: Well, I’m seeing this in a whole new way. This is a very good point. The book lacked some serious adult role models. Everyone acted like a teenager with an attitude issue in the novel.
Kara: I just think the characters weren’t realistic. This is not how people really act. Especially Rose’s father. I have to mention though, I really loved Edie. I got quite attached to her by the end, and her dressmaking, and her house, and the way she loved and treated Rose. I have a soft spot for grandma-type characters. I loved mine to pieces. LOL.
Bekka: I loved Edie! The relationship between her and Rose (minus the endless stories) was one of the few things I loved here. Her patience and understanding really spoke to me and I just wanted to hug her (even though I’m almost 100% sure she smells weird.)
Kara: HAHAHAHA! I bet she does too! But you know, old people. It happens. Agree with you about the stories though.
Lyn: The description of her house did make me gag a bit at times. Her role in helping Rose come out of her protective shell was touching, like Edie and Rose each needed the other,
Kara: Hahahaha, gag is such a funny word. My grandpa and grandma were not hoarders per se, but they did have TONS of junk and old stuff and I remember storing some of my things there and it got torn up by mice, so I guess I related to this more? LOL. But anyway, what are you guys going to end up rating this?
Lyn: I had it at a 4, but I’m going to have to go with a 3 now.
Bekka: I had it at a 3 and I’m marking it down to 2 now lol.
Kara: And I think I am going to go with a 2.5. I had it at a 3.5. So there we go. And we are reading what next? I keep forgetting the title of the next book. Oh, by the way, I got that in the mail, Lyn. Thank you!!
Lyn: Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff.
Kara: Right! Looking forward to it!