A Dress for Kathleen

(3 customer reviews)


SKU: 9781912665297 Category:


A Dress for Kathleen – Heather Richardson

‘Every family has shadow people, the ones who slipped out of the story too soon, leaving a blank space where they should have been. In my father’s family that person was his sister Kathleen.’

So begins Heather Richardson’s astonishing fragmentary celebration of her aunt, Kathleen Hutchinson, whose life was cut tragically short aged just 14. It is the early days of WW2 and Kathleen has just left school to start her first job at a linen mill. But this dark and cold December night she doesn’t make it home.

Originally stitched into the fabric of a dress, Kathleen’s life is presented here as a book for the first time. In the process, Heather Richardson also tells the stories of Kathleen’s parents and their lives together in rural Northern Ireland in the first half of the 20th Century.

A Dress For Kathleen is a labour of love from niece to the aunt she never met. Every sentence sparkles. Heather Richardson’s masterpiece is a poetic portrait in prose and one of the finest books you will read this year.



Watch BBC feature on Heather Richardson’s project



Praise for A Dress for Kathleen

‘An utterly gorgeous and beautifully imagined poetic family history. A Dress for Kathleen unflinchingly tells of hard lives blighted by war and poverty, but blessed by brave and unquenchable hopes.’
Sarah Bower, author of Lines and Shadows


About the Author

Heather Richardson grew up in Belfast. She escaped to England at 18, but after a decade was lured back home. After a non-literary career that began with bus driving in Leicester and ended as Sales and Marketing Director of a pharmaceutical distributor, she finally discovered academia and is now Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at The Open University. She has published two historical novels, Magdeburg (2010) and Doubting Thomas (2017), and her short fiction and poetry has been published in journals in the UK, Ireland and Australia.



Publication Details

Paperback ISBN: 9781912665297
Ebook ISBN: 9781912665303
Published by Story Machine
Publication Date: 07/09/2023
Extent: 96pp
Format: Paperback Original and Ebook
Jacket design: Natty Peterkin


Planet Positive Publishing

Story Machine is committed to putting the environment first. This book is printed using processes that are:

Planet Positive Printing means that our books are a little more expensive than they would otherwise be. We believe that this is a small price to pay for the future of our planet.

Additional information

Weight 150 kg
Dimensions 12.9 × 0.7 × 19.8 cm

3 reviews for A Dress for Kathleen

  1. Daryl Fraser

    A Dress for Kathleen offers tasty morsels of description, evocation, colourful cameos, and humorous moments that blend into a delicious read. Sit down with this clever concoction and you won’t want to get up until you’ve consumed the whole dish!

  2. Elizabeth Clack

    Spoiler warning:
    Every word of A Dress for Kathleen has been immaculately crafted so that the story comes alive on the fabric of Kathleen’s dress and will be forever stitched into your soul. The writing is spectacular. Not a word is wasted in this poignant, masterful book. Richardson’s work is a stunning tribute to her family; the imagined aspects segue superbly with the strands of the memories supplied by Richardson’s family. I love that the author has been able to visit the sites familiar to Kathleen and that the physical creation of the dress has been so lovingly worked from fabric close to that manufactured in Kathleen’s day. I genuinely held my breath when reading the part where the author cuts into the fabric using the fragile pattern. I hope to see the dress in person one day, and I envy those who have already had the chance to touch this unique garment created with love.

    My mother is Irish, with the same name as Richardson’s aunt. I bought a copy of A Dess for Kathleen on Kindle for her because she struggles to read print these days. She devoured the story and has read it more than once. I can’t remember the last time Mum was so full of praise for a book.

    A Dress for Kathleen is a stunning masterclass and takes the reader on an inspirational journey. Highly recommended.

  3. Kirsty Byrne (verified owner)

    An achingly gorgeous work. The symbolism of the empty dress was intense; it emerges across the work, first as a fine spectral muslin shape, then in clearer form, as Kathleen does from the words on the page.

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