Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Review: The Dressmaker: A Novel, by Kate Alcott

Title: The Dressmaker: A Novel
Author: Kate Alcott
Format: ebook
Source: NetGalley

From Goodreads: "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.

I've always been fascinated with the story of the Titanic sinking, so when I saw this book offered on NetGalley, I had to request it, especially as this is the centennial anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. One of the things I really loved about this book is how it melded fictional accounts with actual historical accounts of some of the people who were on the Titanic, including the unsinkable Molly Brown and the Darlings. The story starts with Tess, a serving girl who dreams of being a fashion designer. Her plan is to find some way on board the Titanic so that she can sail to New York, where dreams can actually come true. She meets up with Lady Duff Gordon, a fashion designer of some renown, who hires her as a personal assistant, with the promise of a chance to show what she can do when they get to New York. During the voyage, she meets two men who catch her eye, Jim, a simple sailor, and Jack Bremerton, a middle-aged Chicago millionaire who is in the midst of a divorce. When the Titanic sinks, you get to see everyone in action, and find out what many of the characters are really made of.

When they reach New York, they are faced with senatorial hearings to determine what really happened that night. Some acted with courage, some with cowardice, but all with fear, and the acts of that night will affect all of them for some time to come. 

While I liked this book, I didn't love it. I found that after the Titanic sank, and the survivors got to New York and began to pick up the pieces of their lives, the story dragged a bit. I liked Tess, for the most part, but she was a little bit too wishy washy at times for my liking. Lucile Duff-Gordon was not very likable at all, and Jim and Jack, the love interests, were just kind of there, not really jumping off the pages as a potential love interest with Tess. There wasn't a lot of chemistry with either couple, so it was hard to root for one over the other.

I enjoyed the historical aspect of the book, and when there WAS something happening, I found it easy to read. The problem was that there wasn't a lot going on through the middle, which was disappointing. 

In summary, I liked this book, but didn't love it, and while I don't recommend running out to buy a copy, I definitely think it's worthwhile for lovers of historical fiction to borrow a copy from a friend or the library and read it, then decide what YOU think about it. If anybody else has read it, let me know what you thought about it: Like it, Love it, or just Meh :D

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