Reviews for Dressmaker

Booklist Reviews 2012 January #1
Alcott's debut brims with engrossing storytelling, marred by occasionally clunky writing. Tess Collins is an ambitious young woman who dreams of stepping out of her 1912 class restrictions and becoming more than a maid. She wants the world to know her talent as a dressmaker. Her fate is forever altered when she encounters the mercurial, imperious designer, Lady Lucile Duff Gordon and becomes that lady's personal assistant on the ocean liner Titanic. The actual sinking of the great ship is treated briefly (which may disappoint some Titanic buffs). Tess is willing to do almost anything to realize her designing dreams, even if it means bowing to the increasingly irrational, grandiose whims of her overprivileged employer. As Tess' personal dramas unfold, the ugly aftermath of the ocean tragedy and the roles passengers and crew members played are revealed by the disturbing official investigation, which Alcott takes almost verbatim from the transcripts of the U.S. Senate hearings. For fans of Sarah Jio, Susanna Kearsley, and immigrant tales. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2011 December #2
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. Published to coincide with the centenary of the famous shipping disaster, Alcott's debut wraps a conventional tale of love and wish fulfillment around the much more interesting historical facts. Out of some 2,223 people on board the Titanic, only 706 survived, 60 percent from first class, mainly women, and 25 percent from steerage. The behavior of the privileged, in particular Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon and his couturier wife Lady Lucy, raised many questions including rumors of bribery and murder. In Alcott's version, just before the ship leaves Europe, Lady Lucy hires a maid, Tess Collins, whose real passion is designing and sewing clothes. Lucy turns into a selfish, capricious mistress, but Tess endures in hopes of dressmaking work. On board, Tess catches the eye of a wealthy businessman as well as a rock-solid sailor. Then the iceberg intervenes. All these characters survive, but the aftermath in New York is scarcely celebratory, with newspapers gossiping and a Senate inquiry delving into the horrific events. Tess' loyalty and affections will undergo many additional stress tests. While the fictionalizing of real characters, notably Lucy, doesn't wholly convince, there's an appealing, soulful freshness to this shrewdly commercial offering. Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2012 January #1

Seamstress Tess Collins finds her way aboard the Titanic because the maid of renowned designer Lucile Duff Gordon missed the boat. Yet this is not your mother's Titanic story; the ship hits the iceberg on page 37, and the exodus of survivors happens swiftly. What ensues back in New York is an investigation instigated by a senator who wants to prove negligence on the part of the White Star line. New York Times reporter Sarah "Pinky" Wade, however, smells stories of the wealthy and privileged vs. the poor and wants to pin blame on Lucile. Meanwhile, a young sailor and an older businessman both fall in love with Tess, and her responses to them and to the woman who could help her realize her dreams are at the core of this recounting of the tragedy. VERDICT Taking the tale of the Titanic out of the frigid sea and docking it in the courtroom and early 20th-century New York gives the familiar story a fresh feel. Tess makes a praiseworthy heroine, torn between her loyalties to the woman she so admires and her own principles, but would two men declare their love after knowing Tess for so brief a time? One fewer suitor might have been more plausible. Still, an engaging first novel in this year of everything Titanic.--Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal

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Library Journal Reviews Newsletter
The sinking of the Titanic a century ago sets the stage for Kate Alcott's gripping novel Inspired by the true-life story of fashion designer Lady Lucile Duff Gordon, The Dressmaker . Alcott crafts a tightly woven tale of Tess Collins, a young woman who impetuously leaves her job as a housemaid to make her way onto the enormous ship. Tess's and Gordon's fates collide as Tess is taken on as a last-minute replacement for Gordon's missing maid, and they are soon irrevocably bound together. The Senate inquiry into the disaster draws Tess into the center of a conflict, and while she can see that Gordon's behavior in the aftermath of the sinking was questionable, once Tess visits Gordon's workroom in New York, she is smitten by the thought of elevating her own fashionable aspirations. -- "The Reader's Shelf" LJ Reviews 10/4/12 (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 October #4

The class tensions, politics, and fashion of the heady 1910s collide in this disappointingly conventional novel set aboard the Titanic and in the aftermath of its sinking. Tenacious Tess Collins, a maid determined to use her seamstress skills to transcend her class, meets world-renowned fashion designer Lucile Duff Gordon just moments before boarding the majestic and doomed ship. Lucile's hesitant agreement to hire Tess as her personal maid sends both women on a life-altering trajectory of volatile friendship, convoluted mentoring, loyalty, and conflict, all of which comes to a head in the wake of their survival. The notoriety and familiarity of the Titanic story demands a fresh retelling, a challenge Alcott, in her fiction debut, doesn't quite meet. Plowing into an iceberg not only sinks the Titanic, it largely sinks Alcott's narrative, as she shifts focus to testimonies, politics, and "Pinky" Wade, a headstrong female journalist making her way in a chauvinistic world and stirring up trouble in Tess's life. Pinky and a handful of other side characters beleaguer rather than benefit the novel, although Alcott redeems her story with Tess, managing a sweetness that stops short of cloying in her heroine's ever-positive perseverance. (Feb.)

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