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.The Dressmaker is not so much a novel about the Titanic. Alcott weaves fictional and non-fictional characters to tell a consuming story, a story that is a glimpse at the class system between the rich and the poor. It is also a story involving the varying sentiments of the suffrage movement.
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.
In her short time on the ship, she meets a sailor, a "village boy," Jim Bonney, and a rich American, Jack Bremerton. Their encounters are brief because of, well, we all know what happened. Jim survives the sinking and ends up in a lifeboat with the Duff-Gordons. A boat that is almost empty. Jack has not been seen and assumed buried at sea. Jim is an upstanding, strong man, full of integrity, but little by the means of money. Jack, loaded and on his second divorce, can provide Tess with the life she has always dreamed of.
|Mrs. Margaret "Molly" Brown|
Throw in a reporter, Pinky Wade, a suffragist, along with Mrs. Margaret "Molly" Brown, who organized the rowing of a boat both in real life and in the novel, and there's a lot of feisty women in the novel.
Throughout the story, we see the character of Tess change. And sometimes change does not mean growth, but in ways we don't like. She is under so much temptation with Lucile that she forgoes her sass and almost is meek. Lucile takes the opportunity and pounces, uses this to her advantage.
This book has it all. A bit of romance, history, suspense, drama . . . I really, really enjoyed the read. The book hopped around a lot from one person's POV to another, but I think this is to break up the potential monotony of the inquiry. Because, seriously, if the entire book was about the inquiry . . . what a snooze fest. I also think that some situations were far-fetched, but so is the fact that the unsinkable ship sunk. Revealing these situations would lead to spoilers. I do think there could bigger, thus better, story, but I say that about most books. (Also, I question the dress on the cover. While I am not a fashion expert, I wonder if this is a legitimate Edwardian-era style dress?) This book will be on sale February 21, 2012, so be sure to add it to your wishlist!
Retronaut has some wonderful interior pictures of the Titanic.
Title: The Dressmaker
Author: Kate Alcott
Publication Year: 2012
Publisher: Random House
Source: Bound Galley from Random House