Title: The Dressmakers of Yarrandarrah Prison
Author: Meredith Jaffe
Published: May 5th 2021
Publisher: HarperCollins AU
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 4.5 stars
Can a wedding dress save a bunch of hardened crims? The Full Monty meets Orange is the New Black in a poignantly comic story about a men’s prison sewing circle.
‘This is a deft and unlikely story in an uncommon setting about an estranged daughter, her jailed father and a very bad idea about a dress. It all makes for a warm, funny union of foes and a lovely encounter with what matters.’ Rosalie Ham
Derek’s daughter, Debbie, is getting married. He’s desperate to be there, but he’s banged up in Yarrandarrah Correctional Centre for embezzling funds from the golf club, and, thanks to his ex-wife, Lorraine, he hasn’t spoken to Debbie in years. He wants to make a grand gesture – to show her how much he loves her. But what?
Inspiration strikes while he’s embroidering a cushion at his weekly prison sewing circle – he’ll make her a wedding dress. His fellow stitchers rally around and soon this motley gang of crims is immersed in a joyous whirl of silks, satins and covered buttons.
But as time runs out and tensions rise both inside and outside the prison, the wedding dress project takes on greater significance. With lives at stake, Derek feels his chance to reconcile with Debbie is slipping through his fingers …
A funny, dark and moving novel about finding humanity, friendship and redemption in unexpected places.
‘She wants something that comes from the heart. Something personal and unique. It’s been staring at him the whole time. He’s going to make Debbie’s wedding present.’
A feel-good novel told with sincerity and compassion, The Dressmakers of Yarrandarrah Prison is the latest novel from Meredith Jaffe. A considerate story that makes you think twice about prisoners and prison life, The Dressmakers of Yarrandarrah Prison features an inventive narrative that fully engages the reader until the final page.
A touching tale that provides a glimpse into a unique prison sewing group, The Dressmakers of Yarrandarrah Prison balance light moments with more serious considerations. We follow inmate Derek, a father who is frustrated by his inability to see his daughter’s upcoming wedding. Derek has been placed inside Yarrandarrah Correctional Centre for embezzling funds from a golf club, and thanks to his ex-wife he hasn’t spoken to his daughter in years. He wants to make a grand gesture – to show her how much he loves her, despite being behind bars. Derek is a member of the centre’s sewing circle and an idea sparks in Derek’s mind – he could make his daughter’s wedding dress. With the help of his fellow inmates, Derek and his crew band together to create an unforgettable dress. However, the wedding dress soon becomes the source of much tension, issues and arguments. Can Derek pull of this grand gesture in time and reconcile with his family?
With a rich focus on society, human relations, the incarnation system, punishment and atonement, The Dressmakers of Yarrandarrah Prison is a unique read. Meredith Jaffe’s latest works to challenge your ideas about the correctional system. Poignant, authentic and told with true meaning, The Dressmakers of Yarrandarrah Prison is an exciting set piece.
Meredith Jaffe has penned a realistic, touching and intriguing slice of contemporary fiction that gives the reader a strong insight into prison life. Drawing on a wide range of written material and first-hand experiences, I appreciated the honest vision created by Meredith Jaffe. I can’t say I have ever set foot in a prison, nor do I wish to, but this lack of experience provided me with an incentive to get involved with this novel. I was quite taken aback by the experiences highlighted in The Dressmakers of Yarrandarrah Prison. I had no idea that inmates could be involved in the types of activities highlighted in the novel. It is good to see such positive initiatives helping many of these inmates achieve a sense of self-worth, value and skills to their mindset. Pulling in ideas around rehabilitation, society re-entry and the like, Jaffe has penned a serious novel that goes a long way in pushing our pre-conceived notions about prisons.
With a strong and varied ensemble cast, The Dressmakers of Yarrandarrah Prison is an involving novel that never seemed to have a dull moment. I liked how Jaffe balanced some outside prison characters with the inmates and staff of this correctional facility. I think it helped to keep the dialogue and interactions between the characters engaging for the reader. Although this book features a big cast, it was easy to keep track of the different characters and their voices. Derek is a great lead character who drives this story forward for the bulk of The Dressmakers of Yarrandarrah Prison. I liked how this character was incredibly motivated to rectify his mistakes and repair his family relationships. Derek is supported by some very memorable fellow inmates and staff, who add plenty of spark to this embracing tale.
Jaffe is an amiable storyteller who is able to offset moments of lightness and comedy with more serious considerations. Through the different storylines presented in The Dressmakers of Yarrandarrah Prison, we are privy to issues related to addiction, gambling, financial misuse, rehabilitation, punishment, education, confidence, mental health, family love, relationships, estrangement and redemption. With Jaffe’s ability to combine warmth and understanding within a tough framework, The Dressmakers of Yarrandarrah Prison was a remarkable read that touched my heart.
The Dressmakers of Yarrandarrah Prison by Meredith Jaffe was published on 5th May 2021 by HarperCollins AU. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Dressmakers of Yarrandarrah Prison, Meredith Jaffe, visit here.
*I wish to thank HarperCollins Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
The Dressmakers of Yarrandarrah Prison is book #59 of the 2021 Australian Women Writers Challenge