07 April 2022

Blog Tour: The Winter Dress by Lauren Chater

The Winter Dress by Lauren Chater blog tour schedule

* Copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster *


Lauren Chater is a talented Australian author and it's an absolute pleasure to be part of the digital blog tour celebrating the release of her latest historical fiction novel The Winter Dress.


Jo Baaker, a textiles historian and Dutch ex-pat is drawn back to the island where she was born to investigate the provenance of a 17th century silk dress. Retrieved by local divers from a sunken shipwreck, the dress offers tantalising clues about the way people lived and died during Holland’s famous Golden Age.

Jo’s research leads her to Anna Tesseltje, a poor Amsterdam laundress turned ladies companion who served the artist Catharina van Shurman for one season at her property outside the Hague. The two women were said to be close, so why did Anna abandon Catharina at the height of her misfortune? And was the dress a gift or did Anna come by it through less honest means? Jo is determined to find out, but as she delves deeper into Anna’s history, troubling details about her own past begin to emerge, disrupting the personal narrative she has trusted for sixteen years.

On the small Dutch island of Texel where fortunes are lost and secrets lie buried for centuries, Jo will finally discover the truth about herself and her connection to the woman who wore The Winter Dress.

The Winter Dress by Lauren Chater book cover

I love an historical fiction novel based on an element from history or a true story and we certainly have that here. In 2014, a big storm hit off the coast of Texel, clearing away layers upon layers of sand and mud from a known 17th century shipwreck. Texel is located off the coast of the Netherlands north of Amsterdam, and this natural event created an unexpected opportunity to explore the shipwreck known as the Palmwood wreck. Many items were recovered by divers, including a remarkably preserved 17th century silk dress.

Textiles are rarely recovered from shipwrecks and garments from this era rarely survive, so for this silk dress to survive on the bottom of the Wadden Sea for more than 350 years is quite extraordinary. 

The news of this incredible discovery travelled around the world and inspired Lauren Chater to imagine the woman who wore the dress. As a result, the seeds for The Winter Dress were well and truly sewn. (Sorry, couldn't resist).

Our main character Jo Baaker is a textiles historian and an interesting woman in her own right. In her words:
"One of the reasons I chose to pursue dress history was because I wanted to bear witness to the creation of textiles that simply won't be around in fifty years. The garments deserve better and so do the people who wore them." Page 155
Jo is astonished when she learns about the discovery of the dress in the book and I couldn't help but cringe alongside Jo when she hears how the dress was transported and hosed down by local divers trying to get the worst of the mud off. Eeeek!!! Jo is captivated by the dress and is honoured to be part of the curating process, desperately wondering about the life of the woman who once wore it.
17th century silk dress from the Palmwood wreck
The real silk dress
Source: www.archaeology.org

The Winter Dress is a dual narrative and the author takes us back in time to Amsterdam in 1651 where we meet Anna Tesseltje on the last day of her old life. Anna's family have fallen on hard times, and after starting work as a laundress, her brother secures her a position as a companion to artist Catharina van Shurman.

Meanwhile, Jo finds herself caught up in the excitement of the discovery in Texel and the lurking professional competition made me grind my teeth while my heart ached for the choices Anna faced in her timeline.

Expertly researched and beautifully told, this is a well woven and alluring story with a lustre between the pages you're not likely to forget.

A total of 100 signed boxed proofs of The Winter Dress were produced for Australia and New Zealand and as a member of this blog tour, I was lucky enough to receive one of these special editions! It's such a wonderful bookish touch that appeals to we booklovers and bibliophiles and is a pleasure to house on my bookshelves.

The Winter Dress by Lauren Chater is engaging and the author's enthusiasm to imagine and reveal the owner of the dress is contagious. This is a story about grief, love, loss and discovery and is highly recommended for fans of Kate Forsyth, Tracy Chevalier, Kayte Nunn, Philippa Gregory, Kate Morton; and of course if you enjoyed Gulliver's Wife by Lauren Chater, you'll love this!

My Rating:

Carpe Librum image of the signed and limited boxed edition of The Winter Dress by Lauren Chater
Carpe Librum image of the signed and limited boxed edition of The Winter Dress by Lauren Chater

Would you like to comment?

  1. What a wonderful concept for a story. I know so little about that time and place. It would be fun to learn about in a novel.

    1. Thanks Joy, there's so much to enjoy in this novel I do hope you pick it up at some stage.

  2. I know 2 women who are also textile historians. They are experts on quilt fabrics though. I think I will love this novel as I am a seamstress. Thanks for the review.

    1. Hi Laura, thanks for visiting! This will appeal to you as a seamstress if you've ever wondered whether your work will outlive us all, this is the stuff of dreams. I think your textile historian friends might cringe at the recovery of the dress but if they can make it past that, there's much to enjoy. If you have a favourite historical fiction novel set within your industry, I'd love to know what it is.

  3. I need to read this now, particularly as it is set in Amsterday which we are planning to visit later this year.

    1. Wow, visiting Amsterdam after - or while - reading this would be incredible. Good luck and I hope it's an amazing trip!


Thanks for your comment, Carpe Librum!