Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Dressmaker: A Book Review

I first saw this book on Goodreads; it was advertised at the top of whatever page I was on, and all I saw was the word “Titanic” right before I clicked on the book to know more.  Aside from Philippa Gregory’s novels regarding historical English monarchies like the Tudor Dynasty, I also love learning about the historical moments on Titanic (and, hello, that movie – I love Titanic, probably one of my all-time favorite movies).  I didn’t really have to read the description to know that I wanted to check this book out.  Now if you saw my June/July Photo Diary, then you know that at the end of June, I went to check out the Titanic Exhibit.  I had been to another one previously and love all the details and information that you can learn as it takes you through the building, designing, and sailing of the ship!  Right after coming home from this exhibit, I decided to start reading this book.  Now, I kinda … maybe … was already reading like 2 or 3 other books, but I was in the mood to start this one so I did.  Unfortunately, hopping back and forth between these other books kinda took me out of the Titanic “zone” … ya I don’t really know. :/ But, it ended up taking me a while to finish this book.  I really gotta stop starting too many books at once.

Title: The Dressmaker
Author: Kate Alcott
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: February 21, 2012
Pages: 306
Out in Paperback?: Yes; January 1, 2013
My Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads Summary:

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 her personal maid on the Titanic. Once on board, Tess catches the eye of two men—a kind sailor and an enigmatic Chicago businessman—who offer differing views of what lies ahead for her in America. But on the fourth night, disaster strikes, and amidst the chaos, Tess is one of the last people allowed on a lifeboat. 

The survivors are rescued and taken to New York, but when rumors begin to circulate about the choices they made, Tess is forced to confront a serious question.  Did Lady Duff Gordon save herself at the expense of others? Torn between loyalty to Lucile and her growing suspicion that the media’s charges might be true, Tess must decide whether to stay quiet and keep her fiery mentor’s good will or face what might be true and forever change her future.


The story begins by introducing the reader to Tess Collins, a young woman who is desperate to get out of the job that she is stuck in.  She is ready to leave and become a designer, which she has always dreamed of becoming.  Tess is a very likable character; she knows what she wants and is courageous enough to go after it, leaving behind her life.  It is very nice to watch her grow and change throughout the voyage on Titanic, voicing her opinion when she feels necessary.  Lucille, Tess’s boss on Titanic, can be a bit annoying, but as the antagonist, she has every right to be.  Ok, if I’m being completely honest, I didn’t realize at the very beginning that Lucille Duff-Gordon and her husband, Cosmo, were actual passengers on Titanic.  Once I picked up on that a few chapters in, it was really interesting to read about them (even though some of the interactions were fictional).  On their journey across the Atlantic, Tess meets Jack, a wealthy businessman in first class, and Jim, a member of the crew.  Both are interesting characters in that their backgrounds are extremely diverse, and it really allows readers to see the differences in class, especially on Titanic.  Pinky, a newspaper reporter, is introduced into the story as she meets the Carpathia to interview the survivors of Titanic.  Pinky is an independent woman character, who believes that she deserves the same as her male counterparts, and this development in history regarding equal pay was interesting to see come about.


Being that I’m not that into the fashion industry and dressmaking (which is a large part of this novel obviously), I wasn’t too keen on that plotline, but it was interesting to learn a little more about Lucille Duff-Gordon and the development of the runway shows in the fashion industry.  However, the buttons and stitching and sewing kinda lost me a little.  Overall though, I did find the plot line to be really interesting as it covers the events after the sinking of Titanic.  It focuses more on the trials afterward in an attempt to find out why this grand ship sank and whether or not the White Star Line had faulty equipment or poor crew.  I did find the plot interesting while the characters were on Titanic; however, after the rescue, I felt that there was a lull in the story before it really got into the testimonies and witnesses, which is where it picked back up again.  The romance aspect of this book was a bit of a miss for me.  There was kind of a love triangle going on, but it seemed a bit weird to me.  Overall, I really enjoyed the court trials and the historical aspects of gaining independence for women and voicing their opinions (and shortening their skirts!).

Writing Style:

The writing style was all right for me.  There were a few issues that created minor confusions so sometimes I had to go back and figure out who was talking or what was going on.  I did enjoy the switching between different characters and their point-of-view.  It really allowed the reader to be more aware of the time period, such as showing a character of wealth like Lucille, a character of hard labor like Jim, and a character of modern (or at least at that time) ideas like Pinky. 

Have you read this book?  What did you think?  Did you know that Cosmo and Lucille Duff-Gordon are shown in the movie Titanic?  Rose describes Lucille to Jack as the woman “who designs naughty lingerie” when entering the first class dining room.  :)

FTC Disclaimer:
All items mentioned were purchased by me.  This is not a sponsored post.  All opinions are my own.  No affiliate links were used.

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