Review: The Dressmaker, a novel

Why I picked it: Last year I read The Mistress of Nothing, a book about Lady Duff Gordon, it's one of my favorite novels read last year so when I saw another story about her earlier life, I knew I had to read it.

Wait a minute...!  Did you know there are two Lady Duff Gordon's with the name Lucie/Lucile?   The Mistress of Nothing is about the writer, The Dressmaker is about the fashion designer. 

Synopsis: 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.

Type: Historical Fiction

Quick Take:  I loved this novel.

Tess is a talented seamstress who's good fortune is met when she accepts a job with Lady Duff Gordon, just before the Titanic sets sail.  She unsure what will happen when she reaches America but feels anything is better than the maid work she left behind.

This story is unwinds masterfully, most of the novel takes place in NYC after the survivors are rescued from the sinking ship.  While the novel explores class (rich v poor), politics, and fashion, I was most taken with the post Titanic hearings.  I found it unbelievable that the crew didn't even have binoculars to search the ocean, and that Duff Gordon wielded so much power that her rescue boat never reached capacity for fear of sinking, her power altered the lives of many.

This is Tess' story just as much as it is Duff Gordon's.  Tess pushes Duff Gordon's buttons, builds a life for herself and she may have found love along the way...

If you enjoy historical fiction, this is a page turner that I highly recommend. 

Rating: 4 Stars
Source: NetGalley

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