The Last Silk Dress

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Overview

High-spirited, beautiful Susan Chilmark, fourteen, vows to do something meaningful to support the Confederacy during the Civil War.  Despite the wishes of her mother, Susan and her best friend, Connie, collect silk dresses from all the ladies of Richmond to make a balloon that will be used to spy on the Yankees.

But the issues behind the war aren't as obvious as Susan thinks.  When she meets her dashing, scandalous older brother and discovers why he was ...

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Overview

High-spirited, beautiful Susan Chilmark, fourteen, vows to do something meaningful to support the Confederacy during the Civil War.  Despite the wishes of her mother, Susan and her best friend, Connie, collect silk dresses from all the ladies of Richmond to make a balloon that will be used to spy on the Yankees.

But the issues behind the war aren't as obvious as Susan thinks.  When she meets her dashing, scandalous older brother and discovers why he was banished from the family, Susan unlocks a Pandora's box of secrets that forces her to rethink and challenge the very system she was born into.  Does she have the courage to do what is right even though it may hurt the ones she loves?

During the Civil War, Susan finds a way to help the Confederate Army and uncovers a series of mysterious family secrets.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The theme of loyaltyto friends, family, country and one's beliefsare an involving integral part of this Civil War story. Susan, 14, of Richmond, helps the Southern cause by sewing and nursing the wounded, missing her father and trying not to rile her ``half-mad'' mother, who beats her and calls her a Yankee brat. In one exquisite scene, a troop of soldiers bound for the front pass by Susan's house and salute her for making their flag. After collecting silk dresses from ladies and prostitutes alike to be patched together for a reconnaissance balloon, Susan's view of the war changes; through her charismatic brother Lucien, she begins to see how slavery (and adultery) has undermined and all but destroyed her family. The setting of Rinaldi's rich story has been carefully researched; the writing has an irresistible pull. Ages 12-up. (April)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780440228615
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 10/28/1999
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 352
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 4.22 (w) x 6.87 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 53 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(43)

4 Star

(8)

3 Star

(1)

2 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 75 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 1999

    Her best book! I loved it!

    Susan Chilmark is trying to find her place in the world by taking part in helping the southern cause and fighting against predjudices against her due to her estranged brother. But when she meets her brother, and expieriences the consequences of war, she is forced to question what the war was really all about and whether or not she believes in what they are fighting for. A really great historical fiction, with just enough treachery,adventure,action, and romance.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 29, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Sweeping and Epic Civil War Story

    This is my favorite Ann Rinaldi book by far. The main character is Susan Chilmark, a fourteen year old girl living in Richmond, Virginia in 1861. Richmond has just joined the Confederacy and she watches as the changes of war sweep through the South. Her father is sent away to help build a ship for the Confederate navy and she is left with her abusive mother. Her mother, Charlotte, is unpredictable, going from hitting and yelling at Susan one minute to being a sweet as honey southern belle the next. Susan sometimes escapes from Charlotte by sneaking through Richmond dressed as a boy. One day Susan meets her older brother Lucien, who left the family after fighting with her father years ago. Her brother is scandalous and has the whole town talking because he refuses to join the Confederate army and he is an abolitionist. Susan is desperate to help the Cause in any way she can, even as she learns of Lucien's radical ideas and uncovers some dark family secrets. I loved this novel. The characters were drawn beautifully and Susan is wonderfully human. We see her take in the world arond her and re-examine the beliefs she's had all her life. Rinaldi takes her time telling the story, with a great plot and this grand setting. I definitely recommend The Last Silk Dress.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2008

    A First

    I can honestly say that this is the first book that I've been forced to read for school that I liked. It was an amazing story. I loved the characters and how well the Civil War was put into context and still make the story great. I was only sad because I was left wanting more and more of the story, and I really wanted to know what happened to Susan after she left. If there was a sequel, I would've given it 5 stars, but otherwise it was great.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2008

    My Favorite Book Ever!

    I loved this book. I've always been a bit of a bookworm, and this is the best read i've found! If you love historical fiction with a bit of drama and romance, this is the book for you. The development of Susuan throughout the book is spectacular! The only dissappointment is that there isn't a sequal!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2008

    Another winner from Rinaldi

    Ann, you have yet to disappoint me. I am completely fascinated with this book. Not only does it exemplify the great struggles that went on during a greatly underestimated war but it also brings a fresh and romantic appeal to this important historical event. If you are in search for a book that you can't stop thinking about this is a book for you!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2007

    Best by Ann Rinaldi

    I picked this book up and didn't put it down! I love the romance in the book it so lovely. Rinaldi shows Susan's growth extremly well in this novel. The Last Silk Dress is romantic, suspensful, and, I hate the say this, very sad. It is totally worth your time. If you like romantic historical ficition, you MUST read The Last Silk Dress! NO excuses!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2007

    LOVED IT

    OH, i loved this book very much!!! it sounded so corny when i first bought it, then i started and i really got in to it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2007

    Eye-opening for readers

    I first read this book when I was 12, and it was the begining of my REAL reading. This is the best book I've ever read. It gave me a fasination with the Old South which I still have to this day....years later. Once you read this book, you will NEVER forget it, and will want your children to read it as well. Susan stole my heart from the very first page, and taught me how to become the adult I am today. This book is wonderful, and I will forever be gratful to Ann Rinaldi for writing it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 12, 2007

    A reviewer

    I absolutely loved this book!!! It's one of my all time favorites. This book has a great spin on the Civil War yet gives out a lot of facts about that time. Ann Rinaldi really has a way with showing how a true woman of the south could speak her mind, and how easily people were confused about what was right an wrong during the time of the Civil War. She also gives a great perception of how strict southern culture and tradition really was as far as class and family went. This is a book you should relly read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2007

    an awesome book

    Susan Dobson Chilmark really wants to do something to prove she is loyal to the Confederacy. Her mother isn't supportive of her and is very mean. Her father doesn't argue with her mother and doesn't do anything about it. He is also away a lot working for the Condfederate Cause. Her mother has Susan sewing buttons at home while she and most other ladies in Richmond sew with groups. Susan often angers her mother and gets slapped for it. Eventually her mother lets her sew sandbags in a group. There Susan and her friend volunteer to collect the silk dresses of the ladies of Richmond to make into a balloon to use to spy on the Union. When Susan meets her older brother, Lucien, who was banished from the family, she begins to rethink about her loyalty to the Confederacy, even though her mother is finally proud of something she has done. She must decide whether she is truly loyal to the Confederacy or go angainst the place where she has always lived.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2006

    civil war boor

    if you write a novel about the civil war the characters have to think and act and talk like characters from the time period. these characters talk like they're having a mocha latte at starbucks. the human condition is still much the same, but people from the 1860's lived in an archaic, sentimental time, another world. also, the coincidence at the beginning of the book is way too much. susan is arrested by the one person in all richmond who she needs to meet. rinaldi should have at least had another person arrest her, bring her back to the house, and there she could run in to her long-lost brother.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2006

    I Really Loved this Book!

    This book has all the things I like in a book. It has romance, tragedy, hatred, friendship, and love. I recommend this book to anyone who likes Ann Rinaldi books and to anyone who doesn't. This is a book that will capture anyones interests. I love Ann Rinaldi books and I think this is my favorite out of all the ones she has written so far.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2006

    Makes me want to go back to the civil war

    I love Ann Rinaldi so much. She writes such good books. This book was absolutly GREAT. When Susen finally was caught by her brother when she was out in his clothes and found out it was him she passed out-I would freak out if that happened to me! With her mother being crazy and not letting her out of the house I would dress like a boy too. When she meets that yankee she is hostile I would be also but I don't think I would fall in love with him.I would have stayed loyal to the south and not have switched sides. I love how it was historicle but also a LOVE story. Susen was so strong and brave in everything she did and never let anything or anyone stop her. Susen did what she believed in even if it ment going against her family and the ones she loved. I would never be able to do that . Everybody should read this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2005

    Good Read

    I LOVED THIS BOOK!!!!! It's a great book with a great plot. Susan is fun and bold to live in the era she does. It has a good ending although it leaves you wishing fo a sequal. Defenatly a book you wont be able to put down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 16, 2005

    Great read!

    A friend recommended this to me and said she liked it. I LOVED IT!!! It is compelling and a beautifully woven story with a somewhat good ending.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 31, 2005

    Very Good book!

    This was an awesome book. It really had a bit of every genere you want in a book. It's about Susan Chilmark and the Civil War. It's really descriptive, but what I didn't like about it is that Susan is pretty much being abused. This book is a great reference about the Confederacy at the time and what they did.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2005

    Very Well Written

    This is the best Civil War book I've ever read. All the characters are very well developed. It also goes more in depth with the corruption of slavery. I liked how her father's words gave her the strength to get rid of the balloon. I reccomend this to everyone

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2005

    A CLASSIC IN EVERY READER'S MIND

    this book was like glued to my fingers. Ann rinaldi captured such an amazing character with spirit and heart. Susan is a hereo in my eyes. She shows the true meaning of being a woman and the complications of love in the time of war.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2005

    Last Silk Dress a great book

    I recommend this book to young ladies who like to read about romance but at the same time likes to read about war and history.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2004

    This is a GREAT book

    I first read this book 7 years ago, and it is still my favorite book. Rinaldi always makes her characters so real and easy to relate to. She is an amazing author.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 75 Customer Reviews

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