The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott

Surviving the Titanic disaster. 
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The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott
Double Day, Hardcover 304 pages
If you’ve ever wondered what happened to the survivors after Carpathia docked in New York, The Dressmaker is the story of a select few and the investigation that followed the Titanic disaster. 
Admittedly, it took me a while to finish this book. Between life getting in the way and the droll way with which the the novel was told, let’s just say this book fermented in my currently-reading shelf for close to a month. Oh the horror. Historicals are not my cup of tea but sometimes, I can be co-erced to read them. My reason for picking this up sooner rather than much later was due to the fact that it’s just really high time.

This is an investigative account of what happened in the moments when people fought each other off to save their own lives. Divided into those who acted selflessly and selfishly, we found out exactly what those people were made of. When faced with a grave choice between a literal life or death, instincts can make cowards and heroes of us all. And it couldn’t have been more closer to the truth than in this book.

Part historical account and part fictional, The Dressmaker centres around an English maid whose ambitions would lead her to the fateful voyage that was the Titanic. There, she gets her one-shot at fulfilling her dreams of becoming a dressmaker by offering her services to one Lucille Duff Gordon, a prominent English designer slash aristocrat. In the majestic ship, she also meets two men with whom she would be torn with toward the ending of the book. Yes, it was a love triangle, and no I didn’t feel the need to hurt someone. I’d say the book was romantic, but I’d be lying. In fact, I couldn’t feel a single twinge of excitement with the romances in this book. If the synopsis of the book led you to believe the novel would be reaping with romance, then you’ll be sorely disappointed.

The investigation process was interestingly enough, simple enough for a simpleton to follow. There was nothing complicated about the stories that had happened apart from the politics that originated from the disaster itself. There was a lot of attempted cover-ups, bribery and failures left and right. The core of this book, really, is the discovery of our limits when forced to decide between heroism and cowardice. How far would you go to save your own husband? Would you really dressed him up like a woman just so he could get a seat on one of the few boats available? Would you bribe the sailors in charge of the oars not to come back for other survivors even though you’ve got plenty of room? Would you hand over your two children to a virtual stranger to save them knowing that you’d never see them again? At the end of it all, people did whatever it was to save their own hides and I don’t think you can fault them for that.

The Dressmaker is a mildly entertaining book that would give you an insight to the trials following the Titanic disaster. It’s not so much about the negligence of White Star Lines that were put to the stands but the ostracism of one particular English aristocrat couple. If you are looking to see exactly what happened to the company who built the ship, I suggest you read actual history books.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

  • This sounds like an interesting read, though I'm disappointed there's no romance. I've read several books about the Titanic, from historial fiction to non-fiction, and it seems authors always zero in on some romance, real or imagined. Great review, thanks for your thoughtful honesty!

  • That's kind of funny. I like historical fiction, but it usually takes me a long time to get through a book. It feels like a lot of work, but I tend to end up loving it. This sounds like an interesting one, but it may be a little too much work for my liking. Great review, Joy! 🙂

  • Very informative review. I'm intrigued by what happened to the company that built the ship. I'll take your advice 🙂