Monday, March 19, 2012

The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott

Stories and information about the Titanic will be popular this year, with the 100th anniversary of the iceberg tragedy occurring on April 14. The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott is one of those stories.

Tessa Collins is a talented seamstress who has been working as a housemaid as the novel opens. She seizes an opportunity to leave employment, and is very lucky to obtain new employment as a lady's maid to famed designer Lucile Duff Gordon who is sailing with her husband on the maiden voyage of the Titanic. Lucile begins to teach Tessa things about design as the ship travels to America, but also blows hot and cold; Lucile can seem quite friendly, then distances herself. Tessa also meets two very different men, Jack Bremerton who is a self-made man on his second divorce, and Jim Bonny who is a sailor on this voyage.

Then the Titanic hits the iceberg, and many things happen under the dark of night. Tessa is separated from her benefactors, but makes it into a lifeboat, caring for two young boys whose father stayed on the ship. The Duff Gordons and Jim end up in the same lifeboat, where all does not go as it should.

Tess is reunited with Duff Gordons on the Carpathia, and stays with them at the Waldorf-Astoria as their lives are sorted out. Tess begins to work again with Lucile at her design studio as they prepare for their spring show. Despite all the kindnesses shown to Tess by Lucile, Tess begins to see that, according to Lucile, the world and its truths must revolve around Lucile, and Tess has quite a decision to make.

The Dressmaker is an involving novel on several fronts; it delves into the trial that occurs regarding the sinking of the Titanic, and also into the world of couture and design on the brink of change and World War I. These fronts are joined by romance as two men show great interest in Tess. Ms. Alcott weaves these threads together quite well, and the result is pleasing.

Happy Reading,

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