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Before I read this historical novel, I was unaware of the hearings that were held in both the US and Great Britain in the aftermath of the sinking of the Titanic. Kate Alcott has done a good job of combining the facts of the tragedy and the real people with the story--both fictional and real--of the dress designing business of the early 20th century. I enjoyed the read, and as I have done after reading other historical fiction, I am now reading the account written in 1955 by Walter Lord, A Night to Remember.
Aftermath of a disaster
By the way, if Mrs. J.J. Brown was really present in all the places she has been written to have been, doing all the things she reportedly did, it is no wonder she has become a legend!
The Dressmaker follows the life of Lady Duff-Gordon (real person) and her "maid/dressmaker" Tess Collins (based on a real person) after the sinking of the Titanic. I found the parts relating to the hearings and the dressmaking/couture business most informative and interesting. The love story was just okay. Anyone interested in the Titanic will like this book that mixes real people and fictional ones to bring the aftermath of the disaster to life. The bit about the emerging social changes relating to women's position and workplace culture will be fodder for book group discussions as well.
Nice Historical Fiction
A lot of the testimony in this story was taken directly from the transcripts of the U.S. senate hearings. According to the author, the “basic bones of the story are true: Lady Duff Gordon, a world-famous designer, escaped with her husband and secretary in a lifeboat that, according to various reports, could have held between forty and fifty people instead of only twelve.”
Kendra R. (New Orleans, LA)
Great historical fiction, unnecessary love interest
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel of part fiction and part fact and would highly recommend it to my friends. Kate Alcott has managed to write beautifully about a sad and tragic event in history. Well done!
What happens after the Titanic's passengers disembark was a new and very engaging story for me. I enjoyed the characters and the history and appreciated the author's note on fact vs fiction. The second romantic interest was unnecessary, and had me wondering what the book's overall tenor was going to be...but in the end, it was all about the Dressmaker and was enjoyable. It would certainly please multiple people - history, romance, women's issues - and make a good book club read, but maybe it was trying to hard to please too many people.
Diane H. (San Diego, CA)
Fresh View of an Old Story
Kate Alcott's The Dressmaker takes readers beyond the stories we all know about the sinking of the Titanic to the everyday lives of the survivors after the tragedy. Although it's difficult to judge characters in historical fiction by today's standards, I think the author did a good job of showing Tess on the edge of the 19th century women's movement as well as breaking through the structures of European class distinctions in a new America. Lots of strong female characters but it was difficult to be stuck with old-fashioned male/female relationships. Book clubs will enjoy lively discussions after reading this one.
Barbara W. (Watertown, NY)
Good, Fast Read. Great Historical Perspective.
A side of the Titanic tragedy that you often do not read about – the aftermath of survivor's lives, including the U.S. Senate hearings. The story follows real-life and fictional characters, illuminating the changing attitudes of society and the workplace. The themes of character and the consequences of our choices are strong throughout the novel.
Elizabeth L. (Salem, Oregon)
Disaster of a Book
This book was disappointing. First and foremost, the writing itself was poor. Secondly, the characters acted oddly and while their motivations were eventually explained (clumsily), it was definitely too little, too late. And sadly the plot relied on instant relationships of the main character - a maid - with the rich and famous (like Molly Brown) rather than developing a rich below deck story.
Laurette A. (Rome, New York)
New spin on a familiar story
I've just finished "The Dressmaker" by Kate Alcott and found it to be interesting and well written. Ms Alcott takes a sad incident from the past and places it as the backdrop in her story of Tess Collins, a young woman longing to find her own way in life in an America on the verge of many changes. My mother was only 3 months old when Titanic sank so it was interesting to take a step back and observe a slice of life from 1912. I enjoyed this book immensely and was disappointed to come to the end of it. I admire Tess and would love to see the author do some sort of "generational novel" with her as the central character over the years. Lovers of historical fiction will enjoy this.