Family Strength in Dressed by Iris | Book Review


Rating: 4 out of 5.

A beautiful love story set in the backdrop of the Great Depression in Australia.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
Author: Mary-Anne O’Connor
Published: February 2022
Publisher: Harlequin
Pages: 480 (paperback)

Thank you to Harlequin for a copy of this for review

Content warning (click to see)

sexual assault – death – violence – grief

This was the first time I’ve ever read about the Great Depression in fiction when it’s set in Australia. Being a big fan of Kristin Hannah’s writing and having enjoyed The Four Winds, I was really curious to see how this one compared. I think the simplest comparison I could give to you is that Hannah focuses on the deep, dark corners of subjects, but O’Connor has lifted the story and focussed on the kernels of hope held tightly in the fists of the characters.

This is most definitely a story of love, friendship and family – and I so enjoyed sitting at the table with Iris’s family, and Natasha was one of my favourite characters with her determined sense of joy. It was a big book and yet did not take long to read. The story was almost lighthearted, curiously so given the context of the setting. Though I should add there are serious moments in here too, with scenes of violence and sexual assault not that infrequent.

I liked the Sydney setting and the way key historical moments, such as the construction and opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and a few mentions of Phar Lap, were sprinkled in to really give you a sense of being nearly 100 years in the past. It was all these little touches that allowed the reader to sink into the feeling of being right there alongside Iris as she battles not only with poverty, but with a Romeo-Juliet love story as well.

I’m left curious as to whether O’Connor typically writes religious fiction or if the Catholic vs Protestant theme of this was was simply relevant to the setting. In any case, I found it tastefully done and very intriguing. I loved the fraught tension captured, with the prejudice deeply entrenched in all interactions between Catholic characters and Protestant characters. It’s not really a facet of history I’ve considered much in the face of the Great Depression, and it added an extra layer of complexity to the story (particularly the non-religious stance of Natasha) that I liked.

All in all, this is a good and surprisingly light read. I’m glad to have finally tried some of O’Connor’s writing and am looking forward to reading more books by her. The realness of the characters was a highlight for me and sometimes there’s nothing better than a character you could almost imagine walking into the room and sitting down to tea with you.

Grab a copy!

You may also like . . .

Have you read Dressed by Iris?

Are you planning on reading it?

One thought on “Family Strength in Dressed by Iris | Book Review

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.