A NovelBook - 2012
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.
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Very interesting read! Part of it takes place on the Titanic and has true information about the court cases that resulted from the sinking. I enjoy Kate Alcott's writing and her characters, and the history she includes in her novels.
The Dressmaker tells the story of a young Irish woman named Tess who gleefully boards the Titanic in the employ of a famous designer named Lucille on it's fateful voyage across the Atlantic. While the both survive the sinking, Tess becomes embroiled in the controversy surrounding the actions of the wealthy, like Lucille and her husband, on board the few lifeboats available. Based on the actual Senate hearings, Alcott explores the themes of loyalty, heroism, cowardice and selfishness in the face of disaster.
Thanks to James Carmeron – who has Walter Lord’s book A Night to Remember to thank in turn – there may not be a single person in the world who is not aware of the basic facts surrounding the sinking of the White Star Line’s RMS Titanic: she was not carrying enough lifeboats, not all of those lifeboats were filled to capacity, and only one of those went back to rescue people in danger of freezing or drowning. Of the 2224 passengers and crew, only about 700 survived and many of those were left impoverished, widowed and orphaned. In the case of some of the upper class survivors, they were ostracized by society, as the author investigates.
This is what makes Kate Alcott’s book different. As a Washington D.C. reporter, Alcott did her homework, and this is where her writing is strongest. She skims over the actual sinking of the ill-fated ship and ponders what happened next for those survivors? The chairman of the White Star Line J. Bruce Ismay, fashion designer Lady Lucile Duff Gordon and Margaret “Molly” Brown are some of the upper class privileged who managed to survive. These real-life passengers are mixed with Alcott’s fictional characters, most of which are less believable, which seems almost disrespectable to those who perished; however, she plucks these characters from all classes, including steerage and crew who were least likely to survive the wreckage, the policy having been women and children first (and those on the upper decks, closest to the few available lifeboats). The dressmaker’s maid Tess, Jean and Jordan Darling, the sailor Jim and others may be less well-drawn, but we see the sinking and aftermath through all their eyes and stories. April 15th marks 100 years since the Titanic sank, and if they are not as developed as they could have been, it certainly gives the reader pause for thought and discussion for those who could have been their real-life counterparts.
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