Monday, April 16, 2012

Review: The Dressmaker

The Dressmaker
by Kate Alcott
Why did you choose this book? I saw this book is about the Titanic disaster
When did you read this book? April 2012
Who should read this book? readers of historical fiction; anyone interested in the Titanic 
Here is a synopsis of ‘The Dressmaker' from Goodreads, where it rates 3.45 stars.
Source: ebook borrowed from library
Just in time for the centennial anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic comes a vivid, romantic, and relentlessly compelling historical novel about a spirited young woman who survives the disaster only to find herself embroiled in the media frenzy left in the wake of the tragedy.

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.
My Review 
The 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic just passed yesterday and I have had an interest in the Titanic ever since I was a little girl, so when I saw this book, it was a must read for me! It was not a disappointment! 
The story begins with Tess, a talented young seamstress who has learned to stitch from her mother. She has been hired to serve a wealthy household but is under-utilized as a common maid. She leaves to pursue opportunities she has heard exist on ‘the big new ship’ and feels lucky when she is hired as a personal maid to one of the best designers in the world, Lady Lucy Duff-Gordon, with the opportunity to pursue her dreams as a seamstress. 
One thing I really like about this book is it is the new-to-me perspective of the disaster. Very little time is spent on the actual sinking of the Titanic. By the third chapter, survivors have reached New York and congressional hearings into the disaster have begun. The Duff-Gordons were on Lifeboat 1, which was not filled to capacity and did not return to pick up survivors. Rumor is, the wealthy couple used their money to bribe the crew to not return, as they were afraid of being swamped. The story centers around the hearings, and in particular this rumor, as well as romance for Tess. 
While this book is fictional, most of the characters are real, including the Duff-Gordons, and their stories based on actual accounts of the disaster. I did not know of this designer before, and learned quite a bit about the congressional hearings. The book makes you think about some tough questions; how brave are we in a stressful situation? And would we have reacted similarly to ensure our safety. A quote from witness at the hearings illustrates this conflict well.
“...I wanted to place blame. I wanted to avoid blame. Not anymore. I want to acknowledge that my character was not strong enough to be brave, and if any others secretly feel the same, please know you are not alone. I only hope that, if tested again, I would be up to the task.” 
--pg 226
My only quibble with this book, and it is a very small one, is the ending. I’m not going to tell you what it is, but Tess has a choice to make, and she did not make the one I would have chosen for her. But that was a very minor part of the story, to me, and did not change how I felt about the book. If you are on a quest to read more about the Titanic, you will want to add this to your reading list! 
My Rating:  ★★★★   4 Stars
Counted for these challenges:
New Author Challenge
Ebook Challenge
Historical Fiction Challenge
Support Your Local Library Challenge
Here is the trailer for the book.

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