It is 1977 and Kate is a seventeen-year-old HSC student from Sydney’s North Shore. She has dreams of becoming the next Ita Buttrose and being the editor of Cleo. Yet the 1970’s free love and peace vibe has not yet hit Kate’s suburban home in Beecroft. Kate’s carefree behaviour leads her parents to seek the advice of Doctor Jack Grafton, a maverick psychiatrist. Kate is subsequently subjected to Slumber Therapy where she is given a cocktail of drugs that leave her confused about what is real. The second part of the novel witnesses the decline of Grafton who claimed he could cure all mental illness, after multiple deaths of his patients. After Jack’s suicide, a bereaved fellow psychiatrist attempts to tell the story of his sharp-minded gregarious friend and defends his increasingly irrational behaviour in the lead-up to his death.
“like Puberty Blues for the mirror side of the harbour.”
A confronting puzzle that startles with its sharp, vivid enactment of a tragedy of human innocence caught in the grip of a kind of blithe corruption.
Carmel Bird, author of The White Garden
“Boundaries between doctor and patient are stretched in Meg Vertigan’s debut novel The Strong Dress, but in a more dramatic and disturbing manner…Vertigan is excellent at differentiating narrative voice, and her debut offers an acutely observed coming-of-age story, mixed with an unsettling examination of how power imbalance, regressive gender politics, and institutional misogyny can play into psychiatry and its professional ethics.”
CAMERON WOODHOUSE, The Sydney Morning Herald