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The Dressmaker

A Novel

Alcott, Kate

(Book - 2012)
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
The Dressmaker
Random House, Inc.

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.

Amidst the chaos and desperate urging of two very different suitors, Tess is one of the last people allowed on a lifeboat. Tess’s sailor also manages to survive unharmed, witness to Lady Duff Gordon’s questionable actions during the tragedy. Others—including the gallant Midwestern tycoon—are not so lucky.

On dry land, rumors about the survivors begin to circulate, and Lady Duff Gordon quickly becomes the subject of media scorn and later, the hearings on the Titanic. Set against a historical tragedy but told from a completely fresh angle, The Dressmaker is an atmospheric delight filled with all the period's glitz and glamour, all the raw feelings of a national tragedy and all the contradictory emotions of young love.

Baker & Taylor
A spirited young maid on board the Titanic captures the attentions of two men including a kindhearted sailor and an enigmatic Chicago millionaire and barely escapes with her life before witnessing media scorn targeting her famous designer mistress. 75,000 first printing.

& Taylor

A spirited young maid on board the Titanic captures the attentions of two men including a kindhearted sailor and an enigmatic Chicago millionaire and barely escapes with her life before witnessing media scorn targeting her famous designer mistress.

Publisher: New York : Doubleday, c2012
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780385535588
Branch Call Number: FIC A
Characteristics: 306 p. ; 25 cm.


From the critics

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Feb 08, 2015
  • Mothercat rated this: 2.5 stars out of 5.

Recommended to me by a colleague. Some interesting information about some of the events that happened at the time of the sinking of the Titanic, but otherwise pretty lightweight.

Nov 28, 2014
  • Aggie3 rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

I enjoy Kate Alcott's style of writing. I was a little surprised this story was mainly about the Titanic. I liked it, easy read, well written.

Jun 19, 2014
  • lbarkema rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

Overall I enjoyed the story, I mean anything about the Titanic and I am hooked. But there were too many inconsistencies within the narrative mainly being that it jumped around too much and felt very disjointed. Also I didn't really care too much for the most of the characters (mostly because you would hear their thoughts for about half a page before it jumped to the next person, and the ones I did care about (Jim and Pinky) we do not get to read as much about and the depth of their characters. This had the potential to be an engaging story, but in the end fell a bit flat.

Dec 06, 2013
  • oboechica88 rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

It was an engaging novel, and I had a fun reading it. The trials were well researched and it was an interesting look at a time period I haven't done a lot of reading on. The class situation could have been researched a little bit more and the characters more plausible, but otherwise it seemed well researched on the Titanic. Maybe not a book for hard core history books, but a good read I'd recommend to dabblers in historical fiction and who enjoy chick lit. For the full review, head to my blog at OboeChica Books (so long and thanks for all the fish)

Jun 24, 2013
  • writermala rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

We believed that we knew everything there was to know about the Titanic and all the more so after we saw the movie; but Kate Alcott has surpassed all that in her powerful novel, "The Dressmaker."
I was not sure whether to consider it History, Drama, or Romance and I was hoping that despite all the twists and turns the story would end as I wanted it to. Starting as it does with a tragedy of epic proportions things can only get better or can they not? Read this masterfully told novel and find out.

May 11, 2013
  • musicalmom418 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

This was an awesome book. If you like anything about the Titanic, you'll love this book. I had a hard time putting it down. I wanted to read it again and again.

Nov 18, 2012
  • MemosInStilettos rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

An enjoyable account of the Titanic enquiry, I have a fasination with the Duff Gordons after reading Mistress Of Nothing.

A great history lesson without being bogged down with over zealous details..

Sep 06, 2012
  • mrsgail5756 rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

A very good read. A very interesting subject. At times rather sad. I highly recommend this book for all to read.

Jun 16, 2012
  • ehbooklover rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

A great historical novel. While the plot does include the actual sinking of the Titanic, its main focus is the aftermath of the tragedy and the choices people made in the spur of the moment. The suffrage movement and women's fashion were key themes as well.

Great Book. I was really surprised to see such low marks. This was a fantastic historical fiction book with great research. Interesting plot with the sinking of the Titanic playing a small role instead of the main setting.

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Nov 24, 2013
  • siammarino rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

The Dressmaker tells the story of a young Irish woman named Tess who gleefully boards the Titanic in the employ of a famous designer named Lucille on it's fateful voyage across the Atlantic. While the both survive the sinking, Tess becomes embroiled in the controversy surrounding the actions of the wealthy, like Lucille and her husband, on board the few lifeboats available. Based on the actual Senate hearings, Alcott explores the themes of loyalty, heroism, cowardice and selfishness in the face of disaster.

Mar 12, 2012
  • DanniOcean rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Thanks to James Carmeron – who has Walter Lord’s book A Night to Remember to thank in turn – there may not be a single person in the world who is not aware of the basic facts surrounding the sinking of the White Star Line’s RMS Titanic: she was not carrying enough lifeboats, not all of those lifeboats were filled to capacity, and only one of those went back to rescue people in danger of freezing or drowning. Of the 2224 passengers and crew, only about 700 survived and many of those were left impoverished, widowed and orphaned. In the case of some of the upper class survivors, they were ostracized by society, as the author investigates.

This is what makes Kate Alcott’s book different. As a Washington D.C. reporter, Alcott did her homework, and this is where her writing is strongest. She skims over the actual sinking of the ill-fated ship and ponders what happened next for those survivors? The chairman of the White Star Line J. Bruce Ismay, fashion designer Lady Lucile Duff Gordon and Margaret “Molly” Brown are some of the upper class privileged who managed to survive. These real-life passengers are mixed with Alcott’s fictional characters, most of which are less believable, which seems almost disrespectable to those who perished; however, she plucks these characters from all classes, including steerage and crew who were least likely to survive the wreckage, the policy having been women and children first (and those on the upper decks, closest to the few available lifeboats). The dressmaker’s maid Tess, Jean and Jordan Darling, the sailor Jim and others may be less well-drawn, but we see the sinking and aftermath through all their eyes and stories. April 15th marks 100 years since the Titanic sank, and if they are not as developed as they could have been, it certainly gives the reader pause for thought and discussion for those who could have been their real-life counterparts.


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Nov 17, 2013
  • mrsgail5756 rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

“The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.” -Winston Churchill


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