I became a fan forever of all things Titanic many years ago while watching A Night To Remember with my mother and grandmother. This epic film was shot in black and white in the fifties. I have watched this film many times over and still stay riveted to my seat.
Kate Alcott is the pen name of a journalist named Patricia O’Brien. She has spent countless hours researching everything she could get her hands on about the sinking of the Titanic. That makes her an expert in my eyes.
The cover of this novel with its period dress, draws the eye to the richness of the material. It sets the tone for the beginning of the story. Tess has been working as a maid in France. She’s heard about the sailing of a new unsinkable ship called Titanic and is wild to board it and sail to America where she hopes to make a new life for herself as a seamstress. Why a seamstress? Her mother has been training her since she was a child. But Tess has to find a way onto the ship.
At the dock, Tess overhears two women talking, animatedly. Come to find out, this raving lunatic turns out to be the most famous fashion designer of this time: Lady Lucille Duff Gordon. Her sister has brought her the devastating news that her maid is not able to travel. Hearing this news, Tess steps out of her comfort zone and approaches the pair, offering herself up for the position. Little does she know how her life is about to change, and drastically.
Even as I was drawn to the cover of this novel, I was also skeptical. I feared it would be a light romance that had already been done. But after hearing from two trusted readers that it was very good, I dove in. With the 100th anniversary of the sinking of Titanic next month, I was ready for this engrossing story that takes place not just during but, before and after as well.
So many of the famous historical figures of the day are involved in this story. The character of the Unsinkable Molly Brown is portrayed in technicolor. The voice that came to mind was the actress who played her in James Cameron’s Titanic; that of the larger-than-life Kathy Bates. I loved it.
The character of Lady Lucille Duff Gordon is based on a real historical legend who was truly the most noted fashion designer of her time. Parts of her actual testimony before the Senate inquiry are used here to perpetuate the story. Lady Duff Gordon and her husband Cosmo secured lifeboat number 1 for their escape from the sinking ship. You can only imagine the outpouring of rage and incredulity when the public discovered that only twelve passengers were in the lifeboat that housed the Duff Gordons. It could easily have held 50 or even 60 people. That is not bad enough, we find there may have been other situations, all untenable, that will ultimately bring the Duff Gordon’s down.
It is no secret that Tess survives. After all, she is the main character. Tess meets a spunky Nellie Bly- type named Pinky Wade when she arrives on NY soil. Pinky takes this already very good tale to yet another level of enjoyment. I loved the Pinky character. Pinky takes us on a ride behind the scenes of journalism and feminism giving us a peek at not just her real life caring for her aging father, but also showing us how difficult it was for a woman to get paid what she was worth and get the “projects” that were important.
“The Dressmaker” arrives just in time to bring back memories of this event and help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the sinking of Titanic. Sending out a big thanks to Kate Alcott for a job well done!