The Dressmaker

The Dressmaker

3.7 193
by Kate Alcott
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

From B&N: Perfect for the historical fiction reader, The Dressmaker combines fictional characters with real characters, most notably the renowned fashion designer Lady Lucille Duff Gordon, whose escape on a relatively uncrowded lifeboat was the source of great controversy. Scorn and trials ensued, and The Dressmaker is a colorful witness to it all.

Overview

From B&N: Perfect for the historical fiction reader, The Dressmaker combines fictional characters with real characters, most notably the renowned fashion designer Lady Lucille Duff Gordon, whose escape on a relatively uncrowded lifeboat was the source of great controversy. Scorn and trials ensued, and The Dressmaker is a colorful witness to it all.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Folds compelling story into Titanic tragedy....Seamlessly stitching fact and fiction together, Alcott creates a hypnotic tale"
—USA Today

"An unashamed girlie-book....we learn a good deal about what it was like when the ship went down. But we also follow Tess as she learns about the high-fashion business in New York."
Washington Post

"Why write a Titanic story not really about the Titanic? Because what happens to the survivors makes for interesting reading.....compelling.....Her research into the Titanic, its sinking, and the hearings subsequently prompted is impeccable....fascinating.....actual historical figures become intricate characters in Alcott's hands."
Seattle Post Intelligencer

"If you want a fictional escape [about the Titanic], then it's time to turn to a new novel called The Dressmaker....the book explores complicated gender dynamics of the time, and offers a heroine you can really root for"
NPR's All Things Considered

"Kate Alcott seamlessly stitches fact and fiction together creating this wonderfully colorful book. This story has many layers and reaches far beyond the tragedy of the Titanic....riveting....This novel is steeped in truth woven together with fiction making this Titanic tale feel like one never told before....beautifully told and really examines loss, love, survival and the choices made in between."
The Examiner 

"While reading The Dressmaker, I felt as if I were actually living and breathing the events before, during and after the tragedy....The novel is filled with the atmosphere, clothes, and historical figures of the times, including the Astors, "The Unsinkable" Molly Brown, and J. Bruce Ismay, the White Star's Managing Director, who cowardly boarded a lifeboat before others."
Huffington Post

"It's Titanic revisited, in a romance focused on the survivors and the scandal, seen from the perspective of an aspiring seamstress whose fortunes intertwine with real characters from the epic tragedy....interesting historical facts...an appealing, soulful freshness to this shrewdly commercial offering"
Kirkus

"Brims with engrossing storytelling....For fans of Sarah Jio, Susanna Kearsley, and immigrant tales."
Booklist

"The Dressmaker
will appeal to readers of other historical book group favorites, The Paris Wife and Loving Frank."
Book Group Buzz, A Booklist Blog

"Thoroughly enjoyable."
The Book Reporter

"The 1912 sinking of the Titanic is the stone at the center of a ripple expanding to encompass the rest of the world in this fictionalized account of real historical persons and events. It is a layered story highlighting class differences and the public and private personas people put on as easily as high-fashion dresses, illustrating both the tragedy’s individual torment as well as a larger wave of survivor’s guilt. Multiple points of view bring many perspectives to the witch-hunt atmosphere and courtroom drama of a shocked world looking for someone to blame. By setting the story mainly in New York City, Alcott contrasts Lady Duff Gordon’s lush, glittering world of high society with reporter Pinky Wade’s tenement squalor and seamstress Tess Collins’s ambition and longing for freedom. Tess, the fulcrum of a star-crossed love triangle with two fellow survivors, a twice-divorced wealthy American and a sailor with a talent for woodcarving, never loses her integrity as she struggles to make sense of everything. These small stories stand for hundreds of others whose voices were stolen by the tragedy as survivors faced the consequences of indiscretion and quick tongues. A low hum of background action–suffragettes and union tensions–mirrors the human costs in the disaster that besets the Titanic....will find much to think about in this story shaped by the inherent desire to know more about one of the most documented and researched tragedies in human history"
Library Journal

“We all know how the Titanic went down, we all saw the movie. But what happened after? This brilliant book shows the aftermath of the tragedy, seen through the eyes of a brave, young girl who was on board, on her way to America, to start a new life as a dressmaker. From the minute Tess sets foot on the doomed ship, this is the kind of novel you simply cannot put down and cannot forget.”
Tatiana de Rosnay, author of Sarah's Key and A Secret Kept

“Kate Alcott’s The Dressmaker is a beautifully told story that examines loss, love, couture and the choices we make when everything is on the line—all sewn together into one compelling read. I can’t stop thinking about this book and its characters.”
—Sarah Jio, author of The Violets of March and The Bungalow 
 
   
"We're all riveted by a tragedy, but what happens to the survivors?  THE DRESSMAKER is that rare novel that asks not only what comes next but what we would do in a morally unspeakable situation—and how we live with those choices.  A brave, truly gripping novel."  
—Jenna Blum, author of Those Who Save Us and The Stormchasers
 
“The Dressmaker achieves the remarkable — it makes the sinking of the Titanic feel like a story never told before.  By focusing on the search for justice in the aftermath of the tragedy, this compelling first novel examines humanity at its best and worst, as seen through the eyes of one of the ship's survivors, a courageous young woman who is determined to make her own way in America.”
— Lauren Belfer, author of A Fierce Radiance and City of Light
 
“This is a fascinating premise for a novel as well as a powerful, page-turning read.  It's also a very valuable contribution to our understanding of the events surrounding the sinking of the Titanic, and its aftermath.”
Isabel Wolff, author of A Vintage Affair
 

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307948199
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
01/01/2013
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
82,056
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt

1

cherbourg, france april 10, 1912

Tess pulled at the corners of the sheets she had taken straight from the line and tried to tuck them tight under the mattress, stepping back to check her work. Still a bit bunchy and wrinkled. The overseer who ran this house was sure to inspect and sniff and scold, but it didn’t matter anymore.

She glanced out the window. A woman was walking by, wearing a splendid hat topped with a rich, deep-­green ribbon, twirling a bright-­red parasol, her face lively, her demeanor confident and sunny. Tess tried to imagine herself stepping forward so confidently without someone accusing her of behaving above her station. She could almost feel her fingers curling around the smooth, polished handle of that parasol. Where was the woman going?

She gazed back at the half-­made bed. No more fantasizing, not one more minute of it.

She walked out into the central hall and stopped, held in place by the sight of her reflection in the full-­length gilded mirror at the end of the hall. Her long dark hair, as always, had pulled out of a carelessly pinned bun, even as the upward tilt of her chin, which had so often registered boldness, remained in place. But there was no denying the shameful crux of what she saw: a skinny young girl wearing a black dress and a white apron and carrying a pile of dirty linens, with a servant’s cap sitting squarely and stupidly on the top of her head. An image of servitude. She yanked the cap off her head and hurled it at the glass. She was not a servant. She was a seamstress, a good one, and she should be paid for her work. She had been tricked into this job.

Tess dumped the soiled linens down the laundry chute and climbed the stairs to her third-­floor room, untying her apron as she went. Today, yes. No further hesitation. There were jobs available, the dockworkers had said, on that huge ship sailing for New York today. She scanned the small room. No valise—­the mistress would stop her cold at the door if she knew she was leaving. The picture of her mother, yes. The money. Her sketchbook, with all her designs. She took off her uniform, put on her best dress, and stuffed some undergarments, stockings, and her only other dress into a canvas sack. She stared at the half-­finished ball gown draped over the sewing machine, at the tiny bows of crushed white velvet she had so painstakingly stitched onto the ballooning blue silk. Someone else would have to finish it, someone who actually got paid. What else? Nothing.

She took a deep breath, trying to resist the echo of her father’s voice in her head: Don’t put on airs, he always scolded. You’re a farm girl, do your job, keep your head down. You get decent enough pay; mind you don’t wreck your life with defiance.

“I won’t wreck it,” she whispered out loud. “I’ll make it better.”

But, even as she turned and left her room for the last time, she could almost hear his voice following her, as raspy and angry as ever: “Watch out, foolish girl.”

The rotting wood planks beneath Lucile’s feet were spongy, catching her boot heels as she made her way through the crowd on the Cherbourg dock. She pulled her silver-­fox stole snugly around her neck, luxuriating in the plush softness of the thick fur, and lifted her head high, attracting many glances, some triggered by the sight of her brilliantly red hair, others by the knowledge of who she was.

She glanced at her sister walking quickly toward her, humming some new song, twirling a red parasol as she walked. “You do enjoy playing the blithe spirit, don’t you?” she said.

“I try to be an agreeable person,” her sister murmured.

“I have no need to compete; you may have the attention,” Lucile said in her huskiest, haughtiest voice.

“Oh, stop it, Lucy. Neither of us is impoverished on that score. Really, you are cranky lately.”

“If you were presenting a spring collection in New York in a few weeks, you’d be cranky, too. I have too much to worry about with all this talk of women hiking their skirts and flattening their breasts. All you have to do is write another novel about them.”

The two of them started squeezing past the dozens of valises and trunks, brass hinges glowing in the waning light, their skirts of fine wool picking up layers of damp dust turned to grime.

“It’s true, the tools of my trade are much more portable than yours,” Elinor said airily.

“They certainly are. I’m forced to make this crossing because I don’t have anyone competent enough to be in charge of the show, so I must be there. So please don’t be frivolous.”

Elinor closed her parasol with a snap and stared at her sister, one perfect eyebrow arched. “Lucy, how can you have no sense of humor? I’m only here to wish you bon voyage and cheer you on when the ship departs. Shall I leave now?”

Lucile sighed and took a deep breath, allowing a timed pause. “No, please,” she said. “I only wish you were sailing with me. I will miss you.”

“I would like nothing better than to go with you, but my editor wants those corrected galleys back by the end of the week.” Elinor’s voice turned sunny again. “Anyway, you have Cosmo—­such a sweetheart, even if he doesn’t appreciate poetry.”

“A small defect.”

“He’s a dear, and his best gift to you has been a title. Is that too crass? But it is true that he has no literary appreciation.” Elinor sighed. “And he can be boring.”

“Nonsense.”

“You know it as well as I do. Where is he?”

Lucile was scanning the crowd, searching for the tall, angular figure of Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon. “This delay is maddening. If anybody can get things operating efficiently and on time, Cosmo can.”

“Of course. That’s his job.”

Lucile glanced sharply at Elinor, but she was looking elsewhere, an innocent expression on her face.

Up the hill, away from the shipyard, amid the sprawling brick mansions on the bluffs of the Normandy coast, Tess was marching downstairs to the parlor. Waiting for her was the mistress, a prim Englishwoman with lips so thin they seemed stitched together.

“I want my pay, please,” Tess said, hiding the canvas sack in the folds of her skirt. She could see the envelope waiting for her on the corner table by the door, and began edging toward it.

“You haven’t finished my gown for the party, Tess,” the woman said in a more querulous tone than usual. “And my son could hardly find a towel in the hall closet this morning.”

“He’ll find one now.” She was not going back upstairs. She would never again be backed into that linen closet, fighting off the adolescent son’s eager, spidery fingers. That was her envelope; she could see her name written on it, and she wasn’t standing around to hear the usual complaints before it was doled out. She moved closer to the table.

“You’ve said that before, and I’m going upstairs right now to check.” The woman stopped as she saw the girl reaching out for the envelope. “Tess, I haven’t given that to you yet!”

“Perhaps not, but I have earned it,” Tess said carefully.

“Rudeness is not admirable, Tess. You’ve been very secretive lately. If you pick that up before I give it to you, you have burned your bridges with me.”

Tess took a deep breath and, feeling slightly dizzy, picked up the envelope and held it close, as if it might be snatched away.

“Then I have,” she said. Without waiting for a reply, she opened the heavily ornate front door she would never have to polish again and headed for the docks. After all her dreaming and brooding, the time was now.

The dock was slippery with seaweed. Heart pounding, she pressed into the bustle and chaos around her and sucked into her lungs the sharp, salty air of the sea. But where were the signs advertising jobs? She accosted a man in a uniform with large brass buttons and asked in hesitant French and then urgent English who was in charge of hiring staff for cleaning and cooking on that big new ship.

“You’re too late, dear, the servicepeople have all been hired and the passengers will soon be boarding. Bad luck for you, I’m afraid.” He turned away.

It didn’t matter how brightly she smiled; her plan was falling apart. Idiot—­she should have come down earlier. What now? She gulped back the hollow feeling of not knowing what came next and tried to think. Find families; look for young children. She would be a good nanny. Didn’t having seven younger brothers and sisters count as experience? She was ready to go, no trouble at all; all she had to do was find the right person and say the right things and she could get away. She would not, she would not be trapped; she would get out.

But no one paid her any heed. An elderly English couple shrank back when she asked if they needed a companion for the trip. When she approached a family with children, offering her services, they looked at her askance, politely shook their heads, and edged away. What could she expect? She must look desperate, tangled hair and all.

“Lucy, look at that girl over there.” Elinor pointed a delicate, polished finger at the frantic Tess. “My goodness, she’s a beauty. Gorgeous, big eyes. Look at her running around talking to people. I think she’s trying to get on the ship. Do you think she’s running away from something? Maybe the police? A man?”

“I wouldn’t know, but I’m sure you’ll weave a good story out of it,” Lucy said, waving to Cosmo’s approaching figure. He looked, as usual, somewhat detached from his surroundings. Cool eyes, a calm demeanor; always in charge. Following him, at his heels, was a timid-­looking messenger.

“Lucile, there is a problem—­” Cosmo began.

“I knew it,” Lucile said, her jaw tightening. “It’s Hetty, isn’t it?”

“She says she is unable to come. Her mother is ill,” the messenger said. He bent forward almost in nervous homage—­as well he might, because Lucile was furious now.

“Tell that girl she can’t back out just before we sail. Who does she think she is? If she doesn’t board with us, she’s fired. Have you told her that?” She glared at the man.

“I have, Madame,” he ventured.

Tess heard the commotion and stopped, arrested by the sight of the two women. Could it be? Yes, one of them wore the same grand hat with the gorgeous green ribbon she had spied from the window; she was right here, idly tapping the ground with that same red parasol.

The other woman’s sharp voice jolted her attention away.

“A miserable excuse!” she snapped.

Someone hadn’t shown up for the trip, some kind of servant, and this small person with the bright-­red hair and crimson lipstick was furious. How formidable she looked. Her strong-­boned, immobile face admitted no compromise, and her wide-­set eyes looked as if they could change from soft to hard in seconds. There was no softness in them now.

“Who is she?” Tess demanded of a young man attached to the clustered group. Her voice was trembling. Nothing was working out.

“You don’t know?”

She looked again at the woman, noting how people slowed as they passed, whispering, casting admiring glances. Yes, there was something familiar.

Meet the Author

KATE ALCOTT was a reporter covering politics in Washington D.C., where she and her husband still live

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

The Dressmaker: A Novel 3.7 out of 5 based on 2 ratings. 193 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read the novel in just two sittings, eager to find out what happened to Tess and her beaus and Lucile. I have to admit that I didn't know much about what happened after the Titanic disaster and this book filled in all those gaps in my historical knoweldge but also kept me immensely entertained. The writing is solid but not showy, the characters are wonderful and real and the drama is heartfelt and often surprising.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The ship's sinking informs the drama and there is a ton of great historical detail but the book is always fundamentally driven by character, relationships and the complexities of politics and society, all of which make for a very satisfying read.
NovelChatter More than 1 year ago
Synopsis: Just in time for the centennial anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic comes a vivid, romantic, and relentlessly compelling historical novel about a spirited young woman who survives the disaster only to find herself embroiled in the media frenzy left in the wake of the tragedy. Tess, an aspiring seamstress, thinks she's had an incredibly lucky break when she is hired by famous designer Lady Lucile Duff Gordon to be a personal maid on the Titanic's doomed voyage. Once on board, Tess catches the eye of two men, one a roughly-hewn but kind sailor and the other an enigmatic Chicago millionaire. But on the fourth night, disaster strikes. My thoughts: I knew when we first met Tess, putting unironed, crumpled sheets on her employer's bed, that this wasn't going to be the usual Titanic story. This one was going to have a different spin to it. I was really looking forward to reading Kate Alcott's The Dressmaker, and I am really glad that I did get to read it! Tess wrangles her way on to the Titanic by seizing an opportunity to work for Lucile, Lady Duff-Gordon, the infamous clothing designer and the somewhat questionable survivor on the Titanic. Tess is no maid, she's a talented seamstress, with a gift in design and Tess uses this opportunity to get to New York and find a future there. Unlike other books and stories with a Titanic plotline, The Dressmaker's author, Kate Alcott, wisely places the tragic sinking towards the beginning of her story and places all of the action and development around the survivors and the U.S. Senate hearings that asked questions that one hundred years later, are still being asked. I enjoyed reading The Dressmaker, I think the plot lines were interesting and the writing even and consistent. I do have to add that I was a bit disappointed in the character development in some of the second tier characters and I felt that we really didn't get to know Tess, or what she really thought of the two diametrically opposed men who Tess is involved with from the ill fated cruise, Jack, the wealthy Chicagoan and Jim, the sailor. Alcott, in a brilliant move, used actual testimony from the hearings to help paint the scenery of what the world was like in 1912 and how the Titanic was evacuated. It was good to see the names of the famous and infamous included in her telling and it was enlightening to learn that even a hundred years ago, the paparazzi were present (and hounding in their pursuit of a photo and a story from the mournful, dazed survivors) as the Carpathia docked in New York. Alcott also includes a daring and somewhat pushy female reporter, Pinky, so that she could provide the readers a look at the about-to-explode world of the suffragettes and women's rights. *This galley was provided to me by the publisher's publicist at my request, and that in no way affected my fair review.
crystal_rider More than 1 year ago
I was excited for this book since I love all things Titanic. This was a total waste of money. It went so slow in parts and I was very bored with the so called love story in it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Was so looking forward to reading this and was highly disappointed. Although I know the premise was based on fact, the fictional story was so unrealistic. Amazing how someone "accidentally" gets to come to America, and then so freely roams around with no knowledge of how America works, yet is so comfortable is suddenly eating with high society, running a factory, and getting a marriage proposal from a rich man. Right. I lend my books to my friends and relatives when I finish but not this one It will go into the donation pile.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tess is a young maid with aspirations to be more than just a servant. She is basically in the right spot at the right time (or alternatively, the very wrong spot at the wrong time) and talks her way into working for the famous and famously rude fashion designer Lady Lucile Duff Gordon. The first order of business is a trip across the Atlantic on the Titanic. Despite a few awkward interactions with Lucile, Tess proves herself a worthy helper and the fashion designer seems to taking a likiing to the young woman. Lucile even allows Tess to indulge in a few luxuries, bumping her up from storage to a room in first class. As Tess fills her days accompanying Lucile on leisurely strolls along the deck, she meets a wealthy business man and a young sailor, who are set up as her love interests. But then disaster strikes shortly into the novel. We see the sinking of the Titanic and Lucile's sketchy behavior during the tragedy, but the novel's real focus is once they land in New York. The media swarms the survivors, grieving relatives cast scornful looks in their direction and the senate begins an investigation into what exactly went wrong. There are specific accusations thrown at Lucile and Tess is swept up in the drama surrounding her boss. There are some unexpected turns and I had my heart in my throat during the courtroom scenes but it's also a lovely atmospheric novel and a great coming of age story. Lots of compelling (albeit very imperfect) female characters. In addition to Tess and Lucile, there's a feisty New York Times newspaper reporter.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book had promise, but fell very short. The characters were underdeveloped. The reader feels no connection at all. The writing was choppy and confusing at times. I struggled through this one. I did appreciate the historical aspects of the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved the idea but the execution was at times painful and made me involuntarily stab myself with my metal bookmark several times in my right temple. I was not looking for such a feathery relaxed almost Young Adult fiction attempt at a captivating area of history. I wanted meat and all I could taste at the end of reading this was whipped pudding. While the story moved along at a decent pace in certain parts, it seemed to just float over the most exciting parts or the areas for the most potential (the sinking of Titanic or even the rescue) and focused more on the thrown in lame love attraction . It was all just anticlimactic and dull. I wanted to experience some emotion, but the first 40 pages left me reaching for my Titanic encyclopedia (some major details of the blue print of the ship do not match, example the levels of the decks). However, some potential readers will not be so particular with the Titanic’s construction, so I will move along. The characters were just bland and predictable. The rich were cruel and haughty (and always written in smoking a cigarette at a crucial moment of the story, smearing red lip stick or wearing red) and the poor were just thrown in as the victims, with expected and clich¿ side stories. The only interesting gray character was continually described with having “an ample stomach” (not flattering when the character is actually an interesting woman in history). Besides the lack of characterization, I cringed and rolled my eyes at times with the dialogue and lack luster romance of the main character. Supposedly exciting Historical moments were handled with an overly sugary approach that came off as something just thrown in; to “prove” to the unfortunate reader they were supposed to believe that they were still floating above the late Edwardian era. In the end, I thought the book’s only saving grace was the absolutely mesmerizing Sea Trials of the Titanic. If anything this fluffy book made me race to my Library and do my own research on the trials. To any potential reader, the advice I will leave you with is: borrow this title is you must read this.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
To Anonymous who is so proud of her synopsis-- why does it never occur to uou and all those like you who insist on rewriting what is ALREADY written for us in the ,"Overview"? This space is for a sentence or two, did you like the book or not. Okay, that is enough! Me? I love historical fiction and thougjt this one was fresh and new. See, on the first morning she opens her eyes, thrn breathes in, then scratches the end of her nose.......
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
this was poorly written and disappointing. It started off promising then just ended. Historical fiction is always interesting but this was a waste of time. Move to another book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Am enjoying this book and the details of the period. Recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical/romantic stories.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! I reallly enjoyed how the author went into great detail about how some of the characters came to terms with the aftermath of the tragedy. It was great that some of the info included were actual facts. I would really enjoy reading a sequel that continues the story of Tess and Jim as they make their way in America.
CarolynSS More than 1 year ago
Tried on three occasions to get into this one. Finally gave up. Happy I only borrowed it from the library.
LydiainJoliet More than 1 year ago
I was so looking forward to reading this, but really struggled through each chapter, hoping it would get better, it didn't. Very disappointing, it lacked substance, I felt little, if any connection to the characters and felt it did an injustice to the sinking of the Titanic. The Titanic portion was skimmed over and I am wondering if this book was written to cash in on the sensationalism of the 100th anniversary. I often had difficulty following the story line as it jumped around irratically Iwould pass this one up if I were you...
mevo More than 1 year ago
I liked the idea of this book, but the execution felt lazy, poorly researched and poorly written. You would think that it would not be that hard to write a well-researched book about the sinking of the Titanic when there is so much information out there, but the author somehow managed to almost skim over the shipboard and sinking scenes as if she was not comfortable with them and wanted to hurry up and get to the parts she could safely make up. Tess was OK when she was not around either of her two "love interests". And the love interests were kind of bland and boring. The Duff Gordons came off as one dimensional. To me, the book felt like an early draft that was rushed into market before it was ready in order to capitalize on the 100th anniversary of the Titanic's sinking. Some more research and a couple more drafts would have made a huge improvement on the quality of this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Like others, I was very disappointed with this book. I was really looking forward to reading it. With the author's credentials, one would think she would have done better research. Loads of historical inaccuracies, slow moving and dull characters... I will not be recommending this book to any of my friends or family.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Horrible read waste of money very bory storyline flat undeveloped characters
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Poorly written...will cash in on the renewed interest in the sinking of the Titanic.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a great book. I am really into sewing and the Titanic so this peaked my interest. I couldn't put it down and I really liked how it was based off true events and real people!
sccarol More than 1 year ago
There wasnt anything really wrong with this book, but the story did not hold my interest after the first half or so. It seemed to lose momentum. I will probably go back & finish it at some point, however.
ZQuilts More than 1 year ago
I wasn't quite certain what to expect when I began reading this debut historical novel by Kate Alcott book, but since I have a yen for the turn of the 19th century (prior to WW I) I thought I'd give it go. I was most happily surprised with an excellent read that is historical fiction at some of its best. The book begins as a young Tess Collins flees from the home where she is employed doing menial labor and stitching for the family of a vexing, sexually groping teenaged boy. Determined to better herself, and become the dressmaker that she dreams of becoming, Tess rashly flees the house and heads to the dock where the Titanic is tied up, waiting to begin her ill fated voyage to America and the history books. Somewhat easily, Tess wrangles a position as a lady's maid to the famous designer, Lady Duff Gordon (aka Lady Lucille) and quickly finds herself surrounded in a luxurious world of good food, designer clothing a soft bed, kind gentlemen and an imperious mistress. On board Tess makes the acquaintance of an interesting, well dressed,well mannered handsome man, Jack Bremerton. She also becomes friendly with a sailor named Jim. From this point the book covers much of the usual Titanic fare. The iceberg and the ill trained staff, the life boats that launched half empty and the flailing and screams that came from the tortured waters. Tess and the Duff-Gordons are separated and wind up in separate life boats. Eventually rescued by the crew of the Carpathia the story picks as the differing tales of what really happened in those life boats begins. Tess imagines that the fascinating Jack did not survive as there had been no word of him. Jim and she meet on the deck of the Carpathia, both had survived. Upon arrival in New York the few surviving passengers and crew begin to pick up the remnants of their lives. Tess moves with the Duff-Gordons to the Plaza hotel and is hired to be 'an assistant', rather than a maid, in Lucille's dress atelier. Jim manages to locate Tess, and they discuss those fateful hours together. Jack Bremerton is, indeed, found to have survived the tragedy. He finds Tess and begins courting her. A female reported for the New York Times called Pinky becomes involved with the investigation, and befriends both Tess and Jim. Ultimately, the Senate becomes involved in the investigation and survivors and crew are called upon to testify. There are allegations that Lady and Cosmo Duff Gordon bribed the sailor to not go back for more survivors and that they pushed people back into the sea fro fear that they would be swamped in the effort. The cast of characters is well rounded and well fleshed out. The 'unsinkable' Molly Brown is also one of the characters in this novel. What I really liked about this book is the historical portrait of the times that it provided. The suffragette movement and women's rights for equal pay were in full swing during this time period, as was the beginning of the industrial revolution. The times were changing, and the people were trying to adapt to the world that I think they felt was becoming out of control. This book presents not only a portrait of a tragedy it amply provides a fleeting glimpse of what the world was like during these precious pre war moments... it was a time on the brink of change and this book brings you into the time and the place quite well. I found myself fully involved in these characters and in the times in which they lived. Ms. Alcotts presentation was flawless and I look forward to her next book!
The-Lady-Loves-Purple More than 1 year ago
What an outstanding book! I was looking for another book about Titanic and found this by chance and am so happy I bought it. It gives another point of view of survivors. I enjoyed it very much and highly recommend it.  I think it would be great for a book club review.
susan568SW More than 1 year ago
This book was a big disappointment!!! The author had too many different stories going on and didn't concentrate on just telling one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Too much jumping back and forth. Either write only about the historical facts and inquest, or develop and tell the story of the Dressmaker and her mentor - that would have been much more interesting!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I listened to the audio version of this book and I found myself sitting in the driveway so as not to have to stop!