Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott

4.5 Star

Tess, an aspiring seamstress, thinks she's had an incredibly lucky break when she is hired by famous designer Lady Lucile Duff Gordon to be a personal maid on the Titanic's doomed voyage. Once on board, Tess catches the eye of two men, one a roughly-hewn but kind sailor and the other an enigmatic Chicago millionaire. But on the fourth night, disaster strikes.

Amidst the chaos and desperate urging of two very different suitors, Tess is one of the last people allowed on a lifeboat. Tess’s sailor also manages to survive unharmed, witness to Lady Duff Gordon’s questionable actions during the tragedy. Others—including the gallant Midwestern tycoon—are not so lucky.

On dry land, rumors about the survivors begin to circulate, and Lady Duff Gordon quickly becomes the subject of media scorn and later, the hearings on the Titanic. Set against a historical tragedy but told from a completely fresh angle, The Dressmaker is an atmospheric delight filled with all the period's glitz and glamour, all the raw feelings of a national tragedy and all the contradictory emotions of young love.

Kaley - 4.5 Star

The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott was a novel that I could not put down. It grabbed me from the beginning and would not let go.

Everyone knows what happened to the Titanic and will agree that it was a tragedy that didn’t need to happen. I find that since it happened so long ago (in case you haven’t heard, it’s the 100 year anniversary this year) most people think only of the sinking of the ship and not necessarily of the people who would have been on it. Once you add in that human element…it’s a totally different story.  It seems strange to say that I liked the novel so much because it is so painful to read about the night the ship sank. To think that this actually happened and so many people didn’t make it into lifeboats is just so hard. But the fact that I was so invested in the lives of the characters is a mark of a good story.

Even though the story focuses on the aftermath of the sinking of the Titanic, the book is about much more than that. It’s also about Tess trying to find her way in a new country and learning the ways of the world. She’s no longer a na├»ve maid in England. She’s trying to be a confident seamstress in New York. It’s so interesting to read about her emotions as she learns what the world is really like and how to navigate life on her own.

There’s a bit of a love story woven into the novel as well. There’s a romantic triangle between Tess, Jim, a sailor on the Titanic, and Jack, a wealthy American businessman. While this was a side story to the hearings and Tess’s journey, it kept me guessing and wondering who she would end up with. In the end, though, I was happy with how this sweet romance worked out.

I think my favourite part of this novel was Pinky Wade, the female reporter for The New York Times. She was spunky, smart, and interesting. She introduced Tess to a whole other world and showed her that it’s ok to think for yourself and that you don’t always have to rely on someone else. I think the novel was made infinitely better by the addition of this character.

The Dressmaker was an interesting and exciting read for me. It had a great balance of historical facts and personal touches. I’m inspired to do a little more research on the aftermath of the sinking of the Titanic to see how things really happened. Kate Alcott wrote a lovely novel that I think many others will also enjoy.

Thank you to Knopf Doubleday for our review copy! All opinions are our own.

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1 comment:

  1. I'm going to have to read this one...I've heard a lot of good things about it!



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