The Last Days of the National Costume — Anne Kennedy

Anne Kennedy’s book starts out as a fussy woman’s internal monologue, before expanding to take in a pivotal series of events in her otherwise quiet life. It also will make me think twice before taking clothing in to be repaired.

The extended power outage in Auckland in 1999 apparently made minor headlines throughout the world. (I wasn’t living there at the time.) This is a story of the little madnesses that went on during that time in the life of Megan Sligo, a part-time clothing repairer. As people bring their clothes to her to be repaired, they tell her about the shameful and wonderful secrets behind the damaged items. She maintains her professionalism until one woman brings her an Irish dancing dress with a torn sleeve. Somehow this draws her into its own story.

The narrator is quite delightful. She’s likeable despite being slightly annoying; her mix of intelligence, prissiness and (sometimes) foolishness makes her seem real. I liked the setting of the story too, just because it’s set in parts of my hometown that I know really well. It makes me appreciate the place I come from, much like the Lord of the Rings films — though that’s the only similarity. And the way things work out seems right and proper, when Kennedy could have gone for the fairytale instead.

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