Mary D. (Claremont, CA)
The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott
There has always been a fascination and mystique surrounding the sinking of the Titanic. So many different elements: the "arrogance" of the shipping company in calling the ship Unsinkable, the class distinctions, the chivalry, especially in the first and second class gentlemen, yet the horror of knowing that steerage passengers were essentially "locked in." So many stories...one would wonder what more could be covered. In The Dressmaker, we are introduced to two strong women, Tess Collins who hires on as a maid to Lady Duff Gordon, both survivors of the sinking. Needless to say, one is quite admirable and the other turns out to be a "victim" of her class and acts accordingly during traumatic circumstances. What was especially interesting to me is the coverage of the investigations into the sinking of the Titanic that took place in New York, the accounts of the crew members, how true heroes were villified by those trying to save their own skins, and how the survivors suffered from guilt, and how the public reacted to the survivors once the initial shock had worn off. This is a view of this tragedy that isn't covered...what happened after the survivors reached the shore.
An interesting side note: currently at the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas is the Titanic Exhibition, complete with a section of the ship (you can really get an idea of how huge the ship was) and many, many artifacts collected from the debris field. When you enter the exhibit, you are given a boarding pass for a person who sailed on the ship; at the end of the exhibit is a listing of all passengers and crew and you find your person and see if they survived or not. My husband received the card of a 3-year old boy who was traveling with his his brother and his father, who had kidnapped them from his estranged wife. They were traveling under the name of Hoffman, but their real name was Navratil; the boys survived, the father did not. In The Dressmaker, Tess is handed two small boys, by their father who begs her to save them. She takes them with her on the lifeboat...the Navratil boys!
Terri H. (Battle Ground, washington)
I was looking forward to a new twist on the Titanic "genre." Unfortunately, The Dressmaker was a highly predictable, same ole', same ole'--the ships sinks, which guy should I be with? and my, oh my whatever career should I choose? Typical Titanic novel. Disappointing at best.
Florence K. (Encino, California)
An interesting premise, a quick read, a slice of 100 year old history -- these elements should have made for an excellent book, but The Dressmaker misses the mark. The sections dealing with the Titanic tragedy and the Senate investigations are well done. The book is weakened by a hackneyed love triangle: poor young woman, wealthy older man, poor young man. One can easily anticipate the outcome. Moreover the writing style was flat and full of fluff and lacking much literary depth. I give it 31/2 stars.
There are many decisions these survivors of the Titanic will make following the tragic event. In their daily lives and as a part of an official Senate investigation.
What is wrong with being a survivor? Some men sneaked into lifeboats, and some women stayed behind to die with their men. Survivors on the lifeboats rescued others to the point of overloading their boats, others refused help to others even when there was more than enough room.
This story is about forgiving, excusing and accepting.
The main character of this story, Tess Collins, will have to decide between a life handed to her by someone else who could at any time withdraw it, a life of hope and shared struggle with an equal, or an attempt to make it on her own.
Therese X. (CALERA, AL)
100 Year Old Disaster Viewed with Fresh Eyes
Young, talented Tess Collins learned the skill of the needle from her mother, but her father sends her out to work as a mere maid in a cold, uncaring English household. Defiantly determined to better her life as a professional dressmaker, she runs away after hearing that jobs are available on board a ship in port sailing soon for America. As she boards the "Titanic", her path crosses that of world-famous fashion designer, Lady Lucile Duff Cooper, who notices Tess and hires her as her maid, "on trial". This is the start of Tess's dream-come-true. Soon disaster strikes, and Tess barely makes it into the last lifeboat. Jim, a sailor,and one of Tess's other new on-board friends, escapes in the nearly empty lifeboat carrying the Duff Coopers who allegedly paid the rowers not to take on survivors from the water. Tess is unaware of this and sees only her life's dream of working for Lucile's huge fashion factory as an assistant. However, when the U. S. Senate forms an investigation into the reasons for the "Titanic" disaster, Lady Lucile comes under scrutiny and Tess must choose her loyalties carefully and according to her own mind and heart. Tess Collins is a marvelous heroine in a page-turning novel filled with real and vividly imagined characters and engrossing story lines. Reading the book, is more like watching a great historical film that's seen from a unique perspective. The author paints a great picture with words and readers can only hope that the feisty Tess will reappear in a sequel to The Dressmaker.
Amy H. (Benbrook, TX)
Average Attempt at Entertainment
This book was average - on every level and in every aspect. My idea of a good book is this: I think about it when I'm not reading it, and I reflect on it for months (and sometimes years) after I've read it. I did neither of these. I found Tess very shallow - she seemed to fall very quickly for two men that she spent literally MINUTES with, and thoughts of these two men that she barely knew seemed to consume her like an immature schoolgirl with a senseless crush. While I did appreciate her independent streak with Lucille (whom I grew to abhor in record time), her rebellious attitude toward not wanting to be a "slave" to Lucille was undermined by her irrational fixation on men. It wore on my nerves that on one hand she was a women who knew what she wanted, but then she could never make a decision about men unless an event happened to make the decision for her. I have loved anything and everything Titanic since I was a teen, but this predictable novel was boring and a mediocre attempt at entertainment.
Nikki M. (Fort Wayne, IN)
I wanted to like this, I really did! Fictional story based around the tragedy of the Titanic. However, this was a really "light" read, rather fluffy. Many scenes were unbelievable--too fairy-tale like. I guess I was looking for it to be a bit meatier. Rather disappointing...