The Woman in the Green Dress

by Tea Cooper

I was searching for a book, preferably historical fiction when I came across this edition from NetGalley. I read a lot of WWI and WWII historical fiction; I find the stories fascinating.

The Woman in the Green Dress is the tale of the Australian opal.

The Woman in the Green Dress Book CoverAt the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the Great War ends. Newlywed Fleur Richards is celebrating Armistice and the return of her husband Corporal Hugh Richards. Though married a short while before his departure into combat they had mapped out exciting plans for their life together. It included a return to Hugh’s beloved Australia and farming life on Mongo Creek. However, Hugh does not return. His new wife cannot confirm his whereabouts, even through military channels. She refuses to believe he is dead. Yet when the Ministry of Information requests her presence and presents her an inheritance from her husband’s estate she must face the truth. Thus begins the incredible tale of Hugh Richards’ family and the growth of their wealth through opal mining.

Picture of Opal
Classes of opal: precious and common. Precious opal displays play-of-color, common opal does not

What makes the book so interesting is how it interweaves several character journeys toward a rather compelling conclusion. We follow for some time in the footsteps of Stefan von Richter, whose fascinating story begins in 1853 in Sydney. His job is studying the native plants of Hawkesbury, and transcribing his reports for the New Holland Journal. Also, von Richter receives a commission to retrieve the first known Australian opal and return it to the Austrian royalty.


Tea Cooper spins a tale of twists and turns that lead through the plains of the Darkinjung land. Her writing leads you through native raids, obsessions with local artifacts, and the hunting of exotic animals. It is a brilliant book and gives a glimpse of what we refer to as the outback.

You will learn a great deal about opals in the book, but underneath there is another current flowing; the use of arsenic.  This tentacle within the story affects the outcome of more lives than the primary mineraloid.

Arsenic occurs in many minerals, usually in combination with sulfur and metals, but also as a pure elemental crystal.

If you have read or watched any Poirot mysteries, you know that (once upon a time) arsenic was used in rat killer and insecticides, and was a favorite substance of the poisoner. What you may not know, is that it was an element in many women’s products (for several centuries) to ensure a translucence of the skin, and in old wallpaper. Arsenic is also used to create a popular color of green; the dye creating a hue that was in vogue during Victorian times. It is an interesting thread of dialog in this book and the result (as so often with the chemical) is deadly.

Tea Cooper’s The Woman in the Green Dress is an unpolished jewel in the rough, so to speak. I have discovered her other books and hope to read one soon. Enjoy.

Per Thomas Nelson Fiction I am posting this disclaimer: “I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.”

Per my sensibilities, I am wondering: “Has information become so distorted and unreliable we must now add a disclaimer to everything these days?”



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