#aww2019 · 2019 Reviews · Australian · dual time frame · historical fiction

Book Review: The Woman in the Green Dress by Tea Cooper

Title: The Woman in the Green Dressthe woman in the green dress

Author: Tea Cooper

Published: December 17th 2018

Publisher: HQ Fiction  – AU

Pages: 352

Genres:  Fiction, Historical

RRP: $29.99

Rating: 5 stars

For readers who loved Remarkable CreaturesThe Naturalist’s Daughter and The Birdman’s Wife comes The Woman in the Green Dress

1853 Mogo Creek, NSW

Della Atterton, bereft at the loss of her parents, is holed up in the place she loves best: the beautiful Hawkesbury in New South Wales. Happiest following the trade her father taught her, taxidermy, Della has no wish to return to Sydney. But the unexpected arrival of Captain Stefan von Richter on a quest to retrieve what could be Australia’s first opal, precipitates Della’s return to Sydney and her Curio Shop of Wonders, where she discovers her enigmatic aunt, Cordelia, is selling more than curiosities to collectors. Strange things are afoot and Della, a fly in a spider’s web, is caught up in events with unimaginable consequences…

1919 Sydney, NSW

When London teashop waitress Fleur Richards inherits land and wealth in Australia from her husband, Hugh, killed in the war, she wants nothing to do with it. After all, accepting it will mean Hugh really is dead. But Hugh’s lawyer is insistent, and so she finds herself ensconced in the Berkeley Hotel on Bent St, Sydney, the reluctant owner of a Hawkesbury property and an old curio shop, now desolate and boarded up.

As the real story of her inheritance unravels, Fleur finds herself in the company of a damaged returned soldier Kip, holding a thread that takes her deep into the past, a thread that could unravel a mystery surrounding an opal and a woman in a green dress; a green that is the colour of envy, the colour buried deep within an opal, the colour of poison…


The Woman in the Green Dress is the fifth novel I have read by Tea Cooper. Cooper is an author who is a great asset to Australian historical fiction and her novels go from strength to strength. In The Woman in the Green Dress, we meet not one, but two strong female protagonists. The level of endurance both these women possess reminds us of the hard work and sacrifices made in Australia of yesteryear. The Woman in the Green Dress is a stunning historical fiction showpiece, with some wonderful elements of mystery.

Defined by two distinct timelines, The Woman in the Green Dress opens in London, in late 1918. The war is over and teashop waitress Fleur Richards is awaiting news of the return of her Australian husband Hugh. When she is delivered the worst possible news, Fleur must travel to Sydney to claim the land she has inherited. In investigating her inheritance, Fleur becomes embroiled in unlocking a family secret involving a Hawkesbury situated property and an unusual shop, now boarded up. Helping Fleur along the way is Kip, a returned solider. Together, along with the help of a number of local figures, a mystery is unleashed, involving opals and a woman in a green dress. Running parallel to the post WWI storyline is a step back into the past, in 1853 NSW. We meet the formidable Della Atherton as she becomes involved with the man on a search to uncover Australia’s very first opal. In Sydney, Della devotes herself to the Curio Shop of Wonders, but her eccentric aunt Cordelia seems to be dabbling in some strange activities. Della may have to tread carefully, in this colourful tale of envy and passion.

Tea Cooper is an author who can do no wrong in my eyes, her books get better and better each time. If you are a fan of historical fiction, with a particular eye for trusted Australian historical fiction, you must turn to Tea Cooper. The Woman in the Green Dress is a prime example of Cooper’s prowess in the area of carefully considered historical fiction.

A word on Tea Cooper’s research. I am in awe of her abilities. Yet again she is perfectly able to transfer time and place into the pages of her novel. Cooper’s research is thorough and clear and it is carefully embedded within an engrossing narrative. The icing on the cake with any Tea Cooper novel is her ‘Author Notes’ at the close of the book. I come to look forward to them very much, as they do offer another dimension to the whole reading process of the novel. The problem is, I now want to take a trip to all the places mentioned in the novel, from Hawkesbury and Mogo Creek to the Settlers arms in St Albans (I’d love to try that chicken pie!). Book my ticket now!

Much of the affection I attach to The Woman in the Green Dress is based on my connection to the characters. I loved Della, she was a real pioneer and her story was fascinating to uncover. Cordelia was a colourful protagonist, who added plenty of interest to the unfolding story. However, I do feel like my heart belongs to Fleur. I developed a swift and easy connection to Fleur. Her story was a sad, but a life changing, coming of age story. Cooper captures Fleur’s feelings so accurately. Her deep loss of her husband Hugh, her high hopes for their reunited love back in Australia, and her inability to accept his death. I was with Fleur every step of the way and I felt quite greedy when I craved more of this character’s journey. Supporting this story to reach great heights are figures such as Bert and Kip. Each of Tea Cooper’s character are well placed and carefully considered.

There is a strong line of mystery and intrigue to this novel. Drawing in a concealed family history that Fleur must uncover in 1918/19, adds an air of puzzlement to the novel and I welcomed this aspect with open arms. The book is titled The Woman in the Green Dress, and who this woman in the green dress is, as well as the mystery of her final fate is tied up very nicely by the close of the novel.

With a rich and pervading sense of place, accompanying a rich character set, The Woman in the Green Dress is a book not to be missed. From the discovery of the first opal, the hidden family secrets, overcoming the impact of war and the art of taxidermy, Tea Cooper gives it her all!

The Woman in the Green Dress was published on 17th December 2018 by –  HQ Fiction AU. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of The Woman in the Green Dress, Tea Cooper, here.

The Woman in the Green Dress is book #52 of the 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge .

3 thoughts on “Book Review: The Woman in the Green Dress by Tea Cooper

  1. Thanks Amanda for this review. It sounds interesting. I’ll put this book on my ‘to read’ list. I like the idea of the Author Notes. I found Kate Grenville’s book ‘Searching for the Secret River’ so interesting it remains a prominent book on my personal bookshelf.


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