Synopsis: 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 rating: 3 of 5 stars
The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott tells the tale of several survivors of the Titanic. Fitting story given that 2012 marks the centennial anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. I must admit, I was interested in how Alcott told the tale. And to be even more honest, I was interested because Titanic was at one point, one of my favorite movies.
The Dressmaker was a historical telling through the eyes of Tess Collins. Looking for a better life, Tess boards on the Titanic and becomes the newest maid to Lady Duff Gordon. Tess is exposed to the extravagance of the ship and also by the Lady Gordon. As most other stories, the sinking of the Titanic affects many onboard the ship. What I haven’t read before, are the details leading up to the demise of the ship, as told first-hand through the survivors.
I didn’t connect to Tess as much as I wanted to. I understood her, and respected her, but I didn’t appreciate her as much as I probably should have. Tess was like a kid in a candy store, living a new life and working for someone that she looked up to. After surviving the Titanic, she struggles to make her way in the new world while attempting to make a name for herself.
The characters were well developed, but I felt the aftermath of the Titanic was the main character. From compromising situations and questionable ethics, the characters find themselves in many predicaments. This is where I felt lost in the story line. I was drawn to the romantic possibilities of the Titanic, but wasn’t satisfied with the content nor the dialogue.
Alcott’s world seemed precise. The details were descriptive and extensive, illustrating what could have been a scene from the movie. To me, it seemed specific and particular. Alcott knew what her Titanic looked like, and didn’t spare any details. But that could be why I couldn’t connect to The Dressmaker. I wanted to feel a little more emotion and feeling, and a little less set up and construction.
I wish I could have connected more with Tess and The Dressmaker. It had the makings for a historical tragedy, but seemed to fall short on romance. But don’t take my word for it. Check out Alcott’s The Dressmaker and relive the Titanic for yourself.