Monday, April 9, 2012

Book Review: "The Dressmaker"

"The Dressmaker" by Kate Alcott
First published in 2012
My rating: 3.5 out of 5

Reading this book, which deals with the sinking of the Titanic and its aftermath on a personal level, was quite timely seeing as we're just days away from the 100th anniversary of the ship's demise. Unfortunately, I found the story to be a bit underwhelming.

The beginning of the book focuses on Tess Collins, a talented seamstress stuck working as a maid in a French household. She's spunky and spirited and tired of being forced to sew gowns for her mistress for no pay. So she quits, and hastens to the docks to see if she can get a last-minute job aboard the departing Titanic. Tess's idol -- famous dressmaker Lucile Duff Gordon -- is also at the docks preparing to board the ship, and through a lucky turn of events Tess gets herself hired as Lucile's maid for the voyage, with the promise of a potential seamstress job once on dry land.

And then, as we know, the ship goes down. All the main characters survive and life goes on, but once in New York Tess finds Lucile to be a flawed and manipulative boss. Unhappy rumors start spreading about the Duff Gordons' behavior on their lifeboat and Tess is caught in the middle of the unfolding drama. Not to mention, Tess is in a bit of a love triangle between two men she met onboard -- a wealthy Chicago busines tycoon and a kind sailor.We also meet Pinky Wade, an intrepid female New York Times reporter assigned to cover the Titanic hearings. She's determined to uncover the truth about what happened in the Duff Gordons' lifeboat, even while developing a tenuous friendship with Tess, whose striking loyalty to her floundering employer is both admirable and pitiable.

"The Dressmaker" had so much unlived-up-to potential. The story was ok (I could actually see it better as a movie, although that'll never happen because it could never compete with the ubiquitous "Titanic") but it just seemed to be lacking something. Maybe it was character development, or suspense, or a real connection with our heroine. Some very skilled authors are able to take an event to which we already know the outcome and make it seem fresh and gripping again. I'm sad to say, Kate Alcott didn't quite make it there.

Still, the book may be worth a read, especially since the 100th anniversary of the Titanic's sinking is the story of the month. Happy reading! 

(Image Source)


  1. Too bad it wasn't a better read. But your right about already knowing the outcome of that fateful voyage. Was this a newly written book?

  2. *"The Dressmaker" had so much unlived-up-to potential.* - This is exactly how I felt when reading it -- though I admit I didn't finish it. It felt too slow & unimaginative. I did have high hopes.


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