Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Dressmaker

by Kate Alcott, Doubleday, February 2012.

...the plot is a good one, the ethical questions raised  would make for good book club discussions

Some spoilers -
Just in time for the centennial anniversary of the Titanic sinking we have a new tale that chronicles the lives of survivors of this disaster.  Tess Collins, a maid in Cherbourg, manages to attach herself to the traveling party of Lady Duff-Gordon.  Lucile Duff-Gordon is a famous designer and world class obnoxious boss.  Tess, harboring dreams of becoming a designer, is thrilled to serve as Duff-Gordon’s maid on the voyage. Her association with Duff-Gordon allows her access to the upper decks of the ship, the first class passengers and in the end saves her life.  Hardly 20 pages into the book, the Titanic has sunk and both Tess and Duff-Gordon have managed to find places in the few lifeboats that were launched from the ship.
The crux of the story surrounds events on the Duff-Gordon lifeboat.  Only twelve passengers were on their lifeboat, although space was available for fifty.  Conflicting reports describe events where survivors in the water were prevented from getting into the lifeboat and the crew was bribed not to return for survivors in the water.  One famous couple is accused of disguising the husband as a woman so that he could board the life boat in front of other woman and children.  Crew members both cowardly and brave are introduced into the story.  There is a congressional inquiry shortly after the sinking where the actions of many passengers and crew are revealed. 
What would a Titanic story be without a love triangle and we have one here.  Tess has a brief encounter on the Titanic with Jack Bremerton a wealthy Chicagoan who is attracted to her.   Tess is attracted to Bremerton but develops affection for one of the crew of the Titanic, Jim.  Who will she choose? Read on.
This is a very vibrant story that hooks you right in from the beginning.  I always enjoy historical fiction that includes real people and this story does -Molly Brown, (the unsinkable!), the Duff –Gordon’s, Bruce Ismey, the Astors.  The plot is a good one and the ethical questions raised about the actions of survivors would make for good book club discussions.    It is a fairly quick read, I finished it over two days, but I’d recommend as good beach material for the summer.
I read a copy of this book that I bought.


Billy said...

I saw this in the CBD catalog and thought about ordering it. Great Review!

Carole said...

this was a good read...the Titanic tale told from a new point of view...the guilt (real and imagined) of the survivors...and their attempts to move past the experience. I would recommend it.