Review

The Dressmaker

by Kate Alcott

Tired of serving others in a menial position in a household in Cherbourg, France, Tess Collins is filled with ambition when she hears that there are jobs available on a ship sailing for America. Surely, the young country is where her future as a designer lies. Tess quits her job and heads for the docks to secure employment on the Titanic. Unfortunately, by the time she arrives, all the jobs onboard the ship are taken. But just when Tess is about to despair, an opportunity presents itself.

Mere feet from where Tess is standing, famous British fashion designer Lady Lucile Duff Gordon is lamenting her fate at losing her maid only moments before the Titanic is to set sail. Overhearing her fashion icon idol, Tess boldly offers her services for the duration of the journey. Skeptical at first, she agrees to employ Tess, who quickly joins her and her husband, Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon, as they set sail.

"THE DRESSMAKER is a fascinating and thought-provoking book that begs us all to look at the sinking of the Titanic, how we view differences in the classes, and how we each would act in a similar situation."

While Tess begins her journey below deck, Lucile decides that she needs her close at hand and moves her to a nearby stateroom. She also promises Tess a chance to use her sewing skills to her advantage in the upcoming days, filling Tess with hope for the future she's always envisioned. During the voyage, Tess makes the acquaintance of two intriguing men: successful Chicago businessman Jack Bremerton and kind-hearted sailor Jim Bonney.

On the fourth night of the journey, the sleeping passengers are awakened by a noticeable thud and ordered to assemble on deck for further instructions. In spite of the chaos that ensues while passengers fight to gain passage in the limited number of lifeboats, all the principal players manage to escape the fiasco of the sinking ship alive, their minds and memories forever branded with the horror they encountered that night.

The sinking of the Titanic sets off a chain of events that will forever change the lives of the survivors. When they reach the Big Apple, New York Times reporter Pinky Wade takes an intense interest in the stories of those on the supposedly unsinkable ocean liner. When her digging reveals that Lady Duff Gordon may have acted in a manner that caused the loss of the lives of others, Pinky is hot on the trail of the story. A government investigation immediately ensues into the disaster and the behavior of the crew and passengers. Responsibility for the shocking loss of the lives of more than 1,500 people warrants a closer look, and no one's behavior is free from scrutiny in the most public way.

As those close to her are drawn further into the crosshairs of those conducting the investigation, Tess must decide with whom she will side and how she'll continue on the path to the realization of her dream of fame and fortune.

THE DRESSMAKER is a fascinating and thought-provoking book that begs us all to look at the sinking of the Titanic, how we view differences in the classes, and how we each would act in a similar situation. It also allows us to accompany Tess on an amazing journey that takes her across the Atlantic and across class lines and boundaries to follow the dreams of a lifetime.

Reviewed by Amie Taylor on February 27, 2012

The Dressmaker
by Kate Alcott

  • Publication Date: February 21, 2012
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday
  • ISBN-10: 0385535589
  • ISBN-13: 9780385535588