The Midnight Dress

By . 7 CDs. 8:38 hrs. Prod. by Listening Library. Dist. by Listening Library/Books on Tape. 2013. ISBN 9780804123655. $45.
Gr 9 Up—Nearly 16, Rose Lovell has spent the last 11 years drifting around Australia with her alcoholic father, never staying anywhere long and never forming any relationships. She assumes their time in Leonora will be no different. But Rose isn't in town long before she is befriended by idealistic, romantically minded Pearl, and she finds herself agreeing to see an eccentric old woman to have a dress made for the annual Harvest Parade. Week after week Edie Baker teaches Rose everything she knows about dressmaking while telling stories from her past. The unlikely and unexpected bonds Rose forms with Pearl and Edie are her first true relationships, yet tragedy looms. Olivia Mackenzie-Smith delivers a solid performance of this compelling story of friendship and loss. Her Australian accent firmly places listeners in the setting and she fully inhabits both the independent yet lonely Rose and the lively and naïve Pearl. Each chapter begins with details from the tragic night of the Harvest Parade and the subsequent investigation before returning to Rose's narrative so listeners never forget there is heartbreak in the very near future. MacKenzie-Smith adds a slight roughening and weariness to Edie's voice, conveying her age and experience. This vividly written mystery with its fully drawn protagonist will linger in listener's minds.—Amanda Raklovits, Champaign Public Library, IL
New girl Rose's sharp edges gradually soften through her relationships with optimistic classmate Pearl, eccentric dressmaker Edie, and love interest Murray. Rose feels a profound sense of belonging at Edie's ramshackle mountain home, where Edie teases out Rose's past and shares her own as they sew Rose's (possibly magical) gown for the upcoming harvest festival. Narrator Mackenzie-Smith ably transports her listeners to a specific era and place (1980s coastal Australia) while also imparting the dreamy sense of once-upon-a-time invoked by Foxlee's lyrical prose. But there's no happily-ever-after here: interspersed interludes reveal that one of the girls has disappeared, and as the main narrative progresses inexorably toward betrayal and tragedy, the timelines converge. Mackenzie-Smith contrasts the ominous tone of the aftermath with the everyday rhythms of Edie's storytelling, Rose's tentative trust, and Pearl's exuberance. katie bircher

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