The Dressmaker: A Novel by Kate Alcott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Tess, a young maid who dreams of being a dressmaker and designer, lucks into boarding a ship in the employ of famous fashion designer Lady Lucile Duff Gordon and her husband.
The ship is the Titanic, and of course we know how that voyage turned out. Fortunately for Tess and the Duff Gordons, they survive, and once in New York, Tess's dreams begin to come true.
But questions are being raised about the reasons for the Titanic's tragedy and who was to blame, as well as why many of the lifeboats were only partially filled. And the Duff Gordons are squarely in the middle of the controversy.
That means Tess's loyalties are torn between her new employer and a handsome sailor she befriended on the ship, Jim Bonney, who is determined to tell the truth about what really happened on the lifeboat he shared with the wealthy couple.
I gave this book four stars mainly because it's a good story that held my interest and propelled me along. It also renewed my interest in one of the most fascinating true stories of all time.
Pretty much everything about the doomed ship is intriguing, and I liked this book because it centered around the aftermath of the sinking. We've seen and heard a lot of stories about the actual event...what happened to the survivors who had to pick up the pieces of their lives and move on?
As well, many of the people in the book (although not Tess and Jim) were real people who figured prominently in the Titanic's story, including the Duff Gordons.
However, the story falls a bit flat in the area of character development and emotion. It's not a surprise to find that Kate Alcott is a journalist who has covered national politics.
Another reviewer on Goodreads said that the book is guilty of giving its characters a "modern sensibility." I have to agree. They're quite politically correct, and even the hero, Jim Bonney, admits he "doesn't dismiss" the Bolsheviks and tells Tess "hopefully": "There's this bloke, Vladimir Lenin...have you heard of him?"
Also, will someone please tell me when the use of the word "okay" became common? Did people really say it frequently in conversation in 1912? I'm genuinely curious.
I will say that the characters in this book generally talked like contemporary people.
These are quibbles, though. If you like a good, entertaining tale against the backdrop of one of history's most fascinating events, you'll probably enjoy this book...just as I did.
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