There are two timelines, with two different stories in this enthralling work of historical fiction. The earlier is in 1853, in the Hawkesbury region of New South Wales. Here, at Mogo Creek, Della Atterton works as a taxidermist, while her aunt Cordelia sells her work from the taxidermy shop that had belonged to Della’s father. Della has no desire to return to Sydney, but the arrival of Captain Stefan von Richter (on a quest of his own) raises some serious questions about the Sydney store.
In 1918 in London, just after Armistice Day, Fleur Richards learns that she has been widowed. Her Australian husband, Hugh Richards, has left her wealthy. Fleur cannot believe that Hugh is dead and wants nothing to do with his estate. But she is persuaded to travel to Australia to sort out Hugh’s affairs.
In 1919, Fleur finds herself at the Berkeley Hotel in Sydney. She and Hugh were not married for long before his death, and she is keen to learn as much about him as she can. Fleur finds that amongst the property she has apparently inherited is land at a place called Mogo Creek and an old curio shop in Hunter Street, Sydney. Fleur had walked past the shop and had noticed that it was boarded up.
Fleur’s quest for information takes her to the Hawkesbury where she finds more questions than answers. She also explores the curio shop premises, with the assistance of Kip, a young returned soldier who works for the Sydney lawyers handling Hugh’s estate. Who was Hugh? What is the mystery behind the curio shop, and where does Stefan von Richter and his quest fit into the story? As the story unfolds, new questions arise. Fleur’s inheritance is not straightforward, but she has the strength to deal with it. And the green dress? That’s part of the mystery that Fleur will solve in a very satisfying way.
This is the second of Ms Cooper’s novels I have read and loved: count me as a fan. In an historical note at the end of the novel Ms Cooper writes that ‘The Woman in the Green Dress is a work of fiction, however in some cases fact has fed fiction.’ Fascinating.
Highly recommended to lovers of historical fiction set in Australia.
Note: My thanks to NetGalley and HQ Fiction for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.