The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott

Kate Alcott seamlessly stitches fact and fiction together creating a wonderfully colorful book I just couldn’t put down. This story has many layers and reaches far beyond the tragedy of the sinking of the Titanic and explores how the survivors move on, the investigation and trials into what happened on the boat, the struggle for women’s rights and the sharp differences between the classes.

Everyone knows the story and saw the movie with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. But, The Dressmaker makes the sinking of the Titanic feel like a story never told before.

The fact that Lady Duff Gordon and her over the top comments and antics were very real, made this tale even more riveting. It felt like she should be the fictional character and not the young, bright-eyed yet headstrong, aspiring dressmaker, Tess.

In an essay on Amazon titled “The Most Famous Designer You’ve Never Heard Of” the author explains the research she did into the real Lady Duff Gordon and why she chose to move forward with her story.

Kate Alcott, a pseudonym for author Patricia O’Brien, was a newspaper reporter in Chicago and covered politics in Washington, DC. This article from the NY Times explains the reason why and how, after being rejected by 6 publishing house, she used a pseudonym the sold her book in three days.

A Lady Duff Gordon dress

This story is beautifully told and really examines loss, love, survival and the choices made in between. The book is based on facts and real people and really reveals the aftermath the survivors of the Titanic had to live with.

I loved the feisty Pinky and watching her story unfold. What a great story of a woman’s fight in the news room for equal rights and pay. Given her own struggles I had briefly hoped she and Jim would wind up together.

I would love to see Patricia O’Brien/Kate Alcott follow-up this novel by continuing the story of the growing friendship between Pinky, Tess and the unsinkable Molly Brown.


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