Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Dressmaker by Kate Alcott: Book Review

The Dressmaker
By Kate Alcott
I bought this copy

The Dressmaker was light reading, and I would consider a beach read. It took me a while to connect with the characters and the story.

I bought this novel, because this novel's backdrop takes place in the early 20th century, and the story after the sinking of the Titanic. You may want to google and do your own research on the sinking of the Titanic.  If you never did see the movie, Titanic with Leonardo DiCapio, I recommend it.

I wanted to read, and review one novel that show cased the Titanic on my blog. There are not many novels that I have read that takes place on the Titanic. There are a few novels out there, probably because of the anniversary of the Titanic( centennial).

The story takes place in France, in the year 1912. We meet Tess, she is working as a maid, and her mistress, she is well to do. She has a mischievous son, always causing trouble, and uncontrollable, by the help

Tess can't stand it anymore, she sneaks out when her mistress is not looking and takes her pay without her boss's consent, and leaves for England to find employment on the Titanic.

Everyone is excited about the virgin voyage of the Titanic. Everyone in England, and the United States knows about the Titanic. There is excitement in the air with the first virgin voyage.

Tess continually tries to find someone on the Titanic that needs her service for employment. Tess actually is a terrible maid, her talent as a seamstress, is impeccable. She will do anything to cross the Atlantic Ocean.
 She recognizes a famous designer Lady Lucille Duff Gordon( actual person on the Titanic). She is departing on the Titanic. She tries to coax Lady McDuff to hire her as her maid. With a lot of help from her sister, Elinor she decides to hire her as a maid. 

When she comes on board, Lady McDuff realizes she is a terrible maid. She is not very good with etiquette, and manners as a maid that is employed. On the ship, Tess meets two men very opposite of each other, a sailor, Jim and a Chicago businessman.

You see on the voyage the difference of the rich society, and the steerage. The rich with the beautiful taffeta gowns, and crystal, with plenty of diamonds, around the rich ladies necks. There is a difference of classes on the ship, between the high society, and the poor in steerage. They cannot mingle together.

 April 12, 1912. On the fourth day of the voyage, there is trouble on the Titanic. It hits a iceberg, and the ship begins to sink. There are not enough lifeboats for everyone. The steerage is not allowed to up on the upper decks even with the ship sinking. There is mayhem, and desperate people do desperate things during a disaster.

You see, back at the turn of the century, men and women were not treated as equal. Instead woman were respected and men treated women in high regard, and had manners like opening a door for a woman. The ones that were suppose to go on the lifeboats were women and children first. After then the men could get on the lifeboats if there was room.

One man, pretended to be a woman to get on one of the lifeboat. Lady McDuff's husband bought a place so they could be the only ones on the lifeboat.  Lady Lucille McDuff. Their lifeboat only had 12 people on the lifeboat. It was not filled to capacity.

 With them on the boat, a few of the sailors helped row the boat. As they were rowing the ship was sinking. Bodies were strewn everywhere frozen. They did not want to help anyone else because of fear of capsizing the lifeboat.

When they were rescued on another ship, there was talk about some of the wealthy that were on the ship. Why did they not go back to help the others? They heard the screams for help but just ignored them.

When they got to America, Tess and Lady McDuff found each other. She hired her as her seamstress. A reporter named Pinkie dug further and further in the dirt of the Titanic. She felt the McDuff's bought their way on the lifeboat. 

A U.S. Inquiry, was led by a senator and other government official to get to the bottom of what happened during the sinking of the Titanic.

There is a romantic interest between the sailor, Jim and the Chicago businessman. But, that did not do anything for the story for me. I always like the history, and the characters that lead into the story. I don't read romance, and I have not for a very long time. The novel did not pick up till the last 100 pages, that is when I was flipping the pages quickly.

I liked learning about the clothing they wore, the designing of the clothing, the materials used to make those beautiful dresses, and what goes in to making designer dresses. Learning about the other famous designers like Chanel.

Lady McDuff was the person to come up with the idea of a live manikin. Before that, I assume to make clothing they used clay manakins. Not a great way to make clothes to see how it will look on a real person.

What I did find interesting. I always knew the story about the Titanic. But, what happened afterwards. That is what grabbed me. We all know what happened during the sinking.
But, what about how it affected these people after. Did they feel sorrow? Did they think about the victims? What about the survivors? Did they have guilt?

If you are looking for a good meat and potato novel about the sinking of a cruise ship, this is a fictional account. The story is not about the Titanic, but a fictional cruise ship and the date is fictional as well.  read Lifeboat, by Charlotte Krogen. You can find my review here.
I enjoyed it.


Melissa Mc (Gerbera Daisy Diaries) said...

Interesting...I would never have thought of this as a "beach read." I'm trying to read at least 1 Titanic related book too this year.

bermudaonion said...

There are so many Titanic stories out this year, they need to be special to get my attention. I think I'll skip this one.

Carolina Gal's Literary Cafe said...

Yes, after delving into the book, I realized I wasted my time on Dressmaker, but there is a good book called Lifeboat. It is a fictional account based on a cruise ship sinking. I highly recommend it.