Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Dressmaker

The Dressmaker
By Kate Alcott
Doubleday, 2012. 306 pgs. Adult fiction

Fed up with her status as a servant, Tess leaves her employment and heads for the Titanic, hoping to find a job that will get her across the ocean. As luck would have it, she winds up getting Lady Lucille Duff Gordon to accept her as a servant. Lucille is a fashion designer, and Tess, eager to become a designer herself, is eager to work with her. However, she soon sees Lucille's little fits of temper and isn't quite sure where she stands with the formidable lady. While aboard the ship, she meets both a kind sailor and a dashing American businessman, both of whom appeal to her, although in different ways.
Then, the unthinkable happens and the ship sinks, and Tess finds herself torn between her employer, who is giving her opportunities that she's only ever been able to dream of, and Jim Bonney, the sailor who insists that Lady Duff Gordon and her husband, once safely aboard a lifeboat that could have held fifty people, only allowed their small group of twelve the safety of the boat, refusing to go back for others. As an official investigation is being conducted, Tess finds herself having to examine herself and see where she stands and what price she'll pay to become the woman she wants to be.

I really liked how the book explored the aftermath of the Titanic sinking; I've read a few that dealt with the voyage and sinking, but this was the first one I read that really addressed what happened afterwards. The questions of who is guilty and what should have happened and what people should have done and whether or not they did it are thought-provoking and not easily answered. I think the author made a very good choice in allowing Tess to be the main character, having been a servant but now being introduced into a world of privilege gave her a unique perspective that really helped pull the book off well.

4 stars. Clean read.

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