Summary: Just in time for the centennial anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic comes a vivid, romantic, and relentlessly compelling historical novel about a spirited young woman who survives the disaster only to find herself embroiled in the media frenzy left in the wake of the tragedy.
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. ~product description
Alice's Review: So far this year I have read many novels. The Dressmaker is hands down my favorite 2012 read. There is something so wonderful about this story. It encompasses hope, inspiration and courage at one of the most tragic times in maritime history. The reason this novel intrigued me at first had nothing to do with the Titanic, and everything to do with my mother being a dressmaker. She learned to sew as a child in Portugal. To this day, sewing is still her passion. Sadly, her passion didn’t rub off on my sister, brother and me. I love watching her work, to create a beautiful garment from a bolt of flat fabric. It’s magical. And like my mom’s sewing, this novel is magical too.
Jenn's Review: I don't read a lot of historical fiction, not because I don't like it, but more because I've attempted some that were just too unwieldy. Plus I find myself more comfortable about reading about times and events in history that I'm fairly familiar with so that I can be sure that there are facts supporting the fiction. (What can you expect? I come from a long line of history buffs and married a social studies teacher!) I'll admit I was leery of The Dressmaker. There are so many Titanic related books out there and so few of them are good... or even close to accurate.
Julie's Review: I'm not obsessed with everything Titanic but I will admit to seeing James Cameron's Titanic more than once and less than 10 times in the theater. So when we were looking at books for our challenge I pretty much knew that either Alice or I would pick The Dressmaker. It the end it is a novel about redemption, love and freedom.
Any time I read a book or watch the movie, when the Titanic sinks I am reduced to tears. It is tragic in so many ways. Our heroine, Tess manages to get in one of the lifeboats and make her way to America. It is not without consequences for her and she finds the lady who gives her the opportunity is also the one amid much controversy. Tess spends much of the novel trying to derive fact from fiction. Lucile is mercurial at best but she can teach Tess about the fashion industry and that is something that she desperately wants.
I agree with Alice while there was romance in the novel it wasn't the center focus of the book. By doing this Ms. Alcott let other relationships flourish or flounder. There was never a doubt in my mind which man Tess would end up choosing in the end. Just like you know Rose would chose Jack. The relationships in the book that I enjoyed the most though were the ones between Lucile and Elinor and Pinky and her father. Elinor supported Lucile because she knew in the end it would come down to only her. Pinky's father supported her because he knew that she was good at her job and was destined for great things.
I loved how the novel really did center around the tragedy of the sinking of the Titanic. Ms. Alcott did a fantastic job of bringing in the inquiry information and making it seamless to the story. I can only imagine how big of a deal this was back in 1912 for a U.S. Senator to go after a British company and British citizens to find out how an "unsinkable" ship indeed did sink.
For readers of historical fiction this is a gem of a book to not be missed.
Final Take: 4/5