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Monday, January 28, 2013

Book Review: The Dressmaker

When my mom found a New York Times bestselling novel featuring a character named Tess, she decided it was a must read and immediately ordered it to be sent to my apartment.  Kate Alcott's historical fiction novel follows Tess Collins, a maid eager to escape her station and become a designer.  She wins the attention of Lady Lucile Duff Gordon, a designer and one of the wealthiest passengers aboard the ship, just before the Titanic sets sail.  Madame, as she prefers to be called, hires Tess as her secretary with the intimation she will be able to apprentice as a designer once they arrive in New York.  After the ship has gone down and they are settled in New York, Tess is caught between saving her apprenticeship with Lady Duff Gordon and taking a stand against the unethical events that supposedly transpired on the Duff Gordon's lifeboat.

I enjoyed the historical backbone of The Dressmaker; however, I found the love triangle between Tess, a sailor, and a 1st class businessman to be a bit much.  Just like the film Titanic, probably the most famous of all Titanic commemorations, I found this part a little cheesy.  I recognize I may be the only person who didn't really like that movie: lame dialogue, overacting, and an unlikely story about a great piece of jewelry - not my thing.  I really don't think it deserved an Academy Award, and I'm sorry for airing such an unpopular opinion.  I did, however, love the intricate sets and seeing the wide variances between classes.  I am amazed by how the class system worked back in the day, and in 1912 there were strict rules to follow.  The opulence of the first class compared to the inadequacies of the 3rd class is incredibly interesting to me.  This same aspect is what held my attention in the book as well.  This time, instead of seeing the classes pitted against each other on the ship, you get to see how everyone deals with the aftermath of the sinking between trials and frenzied journalists.  It's a fine line, but in this case the fluff of the rest of the story took away from the historical piece of this historical fiction.  It was still a fun read, but I would have preferred a little more meat and a few less liberties taken.

5 out of 10 stars.

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