The Sinking of The Dressmaker
December 29, 2011
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I just finished The Dressmaker (C) by Kate Alcott and much to my dismay I didn’t enjoy it. I was attracted to the book by the title. Being a quilter; I gravitate to stories about stitchers. I bid for it on the Library Thing and won an early reviewer edition.
The story opens with Tess Collins working as a servant and seamstress for a wealthy family in Belfast. After another dreadful day of servitude, she escapes as planned and heads for the docks where the Titanic is preparing to leave on its maiden voyage. To her great surprise, she discovers one of the passengers is Lady Duff Gordon an extremely popular and wealthy dress designer. Wasting no time, Tess manages to gain passage on the ship as Duff Gordon’s maid.
Quickly the grandeur and magnificence of the ship is described along with its famous passengers. Through Tess’s eyes we find the less fortunate who are traveling in the unlit, poorly ventilated steerage quarters in the hull of the ship. Before too long, the ship sinks leaving countless dead and a few hundred survivors.
Once on American soil, we follow these survivors and are introduced to Pinky a female reporter for the New York Times and Senator Smith who is investigating the tragedy. It is here that the story went totally flat for me. When Lady Duff Gordon’s interview with Pinky becomes front page of the Times; she must face the consequences of her words. Tess is given an important job in the Duff Gordon Empire and must decide which world she wants to be part of. Added to the mix is a bit of a love story that also takes Tess in two different directions.
The Dressmaker like the Titanic had great potential but sunk before it got anywhere. For me it was boring and predictable with under developed type-cast characters. Alcott enhanced her fiction with historical facts but failed to write an interesting story. She had a good idea when she decided to write from the perspective of the survivors; however, her characters were uninteresting. Perhaps if you are a fan of all things Titanic, you could give The Dressmaker a try and I’d be happy to know what you think.