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 seen Debbie in years. Unable to attend his daughter’s special day, he wants to make a grand gesture – to show her how much he loves her. But what can he do?
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…
From the author of The Making of Christina and The Fence comes The Dressmaker’s of Yarrandarrah Prison, a funny, dark and moving novel about finding humanity, friendship and redemption in unexpected places. This poignant yet comic story about a men’s prison sewing circle will appeal to fans of The Full Monty and Orange is the New Black.
There’s so much to love about this story, but what stood out the most for me was Jaffé’s ragtag band of criminals, who are each richly drawn and a joy to follow. There’s the protagonist Derek, a model-con who is always the first to show up to his weekly sewing circle, and young crim Joey Maloney, who is a dab hand with a bedazzler. Then there’s Jane, a volunteer, who spends her days teaching hardened crims how to embroider. Jaffé’s character work shines here, and she goes to great lengths throughout the novel to break any stereotypes we might have about those incarcerated.
Though The Dressmakers of Yarrandarrah Prison is essentially a heart-warming story about a father’s love for his daughter, don’t be fooled into thinking this is an easy, light-hearted read. The novel is set in a men’s correctional centre and Jaffé never lets the reader forget this. Prison can be a tense – even dangerous – place, and Jaffé offers readers an honest look at what life is like for those on the inside. She walks a fine line, delivering a story that is both warm and hopeful, yet still remains true to its subject matter.
Funny, heartfelt, and gorgeously written, The Dressmakers of Yarrandarrah Prison is a highly original and extremely enjoyable read from Meredith Jaffé.