Gillian Flynn
March 31, 2000 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Dress Lodger

Current Status
In Season
Sheri Holman
Atlantic Monthly Press
History, Fiction

We gave it an A

In Sheri Homan’s 1830s England of The Dress Lodger, factory girls grow heady from lead poisoning, matchmaking crones die glowing with phosphorus, and 15-year-old Gustine slips into a blue dress to sell herself to rich men. The trade earns a few coins for her baby, who suffers from a deformity — leading her to Dr. Henry Chiver, who robs graves for his secret science and believes treating the child is his last grasp at salvation. In her second novel, Holman tromps through the squalor of cholera-laden England straddling superstition and enlightenment. The visit is a visceral one, redolent of the smell of shanty sweat and sheltered sweets. It’s a gorgeously written study not just of the defiant Gustine and the arrogant Chiver but of the time — and the leftover people sacrificed to progress. A

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