Everyone knows the story of how the Titanic sank. This is the story of a maid, striving to escape that life and aspiring to be more, finding her way onto the fated ship. Tess manages to get noticed by Lady Duff Gordon – a famous fashion designer, who hires her as a maid but also wants to mentor this young girl. When the Titanic strikes the infamous iceberg, Tess finds herself on a lifeboat – different from the one that Lord & Lady Duff Gordon are on – and eventually saved by the Carpathia. What comes after this is a budding seamstress who is fresh to America after a horrible tragedy, trying to make a life for herself while her mentor is being scrutinized for not only having merely a dozen or so people on their lifeboat but refusing to go back and save others.
I have always been fascinated by all the stories surrounding the Titanic. The needlessness and helplessness of such a tragedy, when so many things could have been done differently. Alcott’s novel puts an interesting point of view to this familiar story. Yes, the Titanic sinking features as a prominent theme throughout the book but it’s not “another Titanic story”. It’s about a girl who wants a better life in America, struggling between trusting her gut instincts or her loyalty to her employer, a life of safety & security or one of uncertainty as she pursues her aspirations.
What I love about The Dressmaker was the blend of fact and fiction. I suppose that’s why I enjoy the occasional historical fiction – barring that it’s about a topic I’m interested in. The fact that Lord & Lady Duff Gordon were actual people who were on a 50+ capacity lifeboat only holding a handful of people was a controversy that surrounded them long after the disaster.
The beautiful cover is striking, and it’s mirrored in the flowing narrative making for a book that I couldn’t put down. The Dressmaker is a page-turner that allows the reader to not only relive the horror of that fateful night in 1912 from a different perspective, but all the fallout and aftermath for the survivors. It’s not only just about surviving the disaster, but surviving afterwards – how to live with yourself and those around you who escaped a watery grave.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ (5/5 stars)
The Dressmaker is currently available in stores
A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.