Thursday, February 23, 2012
Review: The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott
Tess, is an inspiring designer and seamstress but her life consists of laboring as a servant and she doesn't receive the recognition she deserves for her talent. The Titanic is about to undock and Tess decides that it is now to never. She packs a small bag, determined to find a way onto the glorious ship. When Tess meets world renown designer Lady Duff Gordon, she begs to be hired as her maid for the voyage. Lady Duff Gordon is a little taken aback, but decides to have a little faith in Tess and give her an opportunity. Tess is introduced to a new world, and within a few days she and Lady Duff Gordon bond. The excitement of the voyage is cut short; when the Titanic strikes an iceberg and passengers scramble to abandon ship. Panic and chaos ensues, those who survive have no idea that they’re about to be scrutinized for the disorganization, incompetence, and negligence that took place. Following the sinking, a congressional inquiry begins to examine the causes of the tragedy and the accountability of the crew and passengers. Many of the “first class” passengers are scandalized by reports for their cowardice, and special treatment. The Dressmaker is a book about surviving and at what cost.
I really enjoyed this one, it was an original and entertaining read. The sinking of the ship occurs early on in the book, and the aftermath is the focus of the novel. The survivors are put under a microscope, and judged on their actions during a tragedy. Lady Duff Gordon’s actions are uncovered and her career is in jeopardy. Tess thought Lady Duff Gordon could do no wrong, but once her secrets unfold Tess begins to question the woman she openly defended. The relationship between Tess and Lady Duff Gordon quickly becomes strained.
The Dressmaker is a tale of bravery, cowardice and privilege. Split second decisions can have life-long consequences. While the bulk of the book deals with the aftermath of the Titanic, we are still introduced to other situations. Tess has a romantic interest approach her, but she’s still pining for a man who might not have survived the sinking. Lady Duff Gordon wants the press to leave her alone, when she gives too much information about another survivor, she doesn’t realize the impact this will have.
I really thought Kate Alcott took a great approach to this familiar story. She created an original, fresh perspective that really captured my attention. After finishing the book, I started researching some of these characters and my journey really kept going after I closed the pages. If you’re curious about the aftermath, I would really recommend this book.