The Great Outdoors: Favourite settings

While the colour is green to parallel all things outdoorsy, my favourite setting conjures up mostly blue: The cover of the book, The Midnight Dress (February, 2013), the title, and the beach and the running creeks–all intricately woven through the rainforest that serves as the landscape for this elusive mystery.

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I immediately thought of this book when I saw the prompt of favourite settings, because it is the closest to capturing the landscapes of my teenage years. We moved to a small sugar community (not even town-sized) in Far North Qld when I turned 14. I lived in a house that butted up against cane fields and mountains covered in impenetrable rainforests, until I was 22. Those slopes looked foreboding from a distance, and it was only when my best friend took me to the foothills of those great diving ranges, and walked me up a tiny track to a private swimming place surrounded by rocks and tree ferns, with the water icy and swift, that I saw them differently.

The Midnight Dress wasn’t marketed as YA, even though Rose and Pearl are 17. As an outsider, Rose is awkward, and ambivalent to the rituals of small town festivals. She meets a dressmaker, Edie who teaches her to sew, and tells stories from the past that will impact on the present. Meanwhile, interspersed chapters make readers aware of a girl gone missing. The two stories weave together, and uses the landscape of the mountains, the rainforests, the cane fields to build a suspenseful tale of mistakes and murder.

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My own mountain retreat, probably photographed around 1982.

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My response to The Midnight Dress is very personal. But regardless of that, it’s a well written story, full of suspense and memory.

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