Kate Alcott (pseudonym for Patricia O’Brien) puts a fresh spin on the story of the Titanic by focusing on the aftermath of its sinking in The Dressmaker. The novel is told from the perspective of Tess Collins, a seamstress, who is hired right before boarding to be personal maid to high society fashion designer Lucile Duff Gordon. Tess is determined to use her seamstress skills to elevate her position in society, but both Tess and Lucile’s futures are irrevocably changed by events that occur while they are passengers on the luxury liner and as survivors in New York. By page 37 the Titanic has sunk and Alcott transitions from the frigid sea to the mean streets of New York and the ensuing investigation. A senator wants to prove negligence on the part of the White Star Line but New York Times reporter, Sarah “Pinky” Wade smells richer storylines and digs deep to investigate the rumors of on-board bribery and murder which implicate Lucile’s husband.
Transferring this familiar story to early 20th century New York gives readers a new way to approach this epic disaster. Alcott’s well-drawn characters add richness to her story which is strong in setting and historical detail. As Tess' personal dramas unfold, the ugly wake left by this oceanic catastrophe and the roles passengers and crew members played are revealed by the disturbing official investigation, which Alcott has taken from the transcripts of the U.S. Senate hearings. Titanic buffs and fans of historical fiction will enjoy this tale of tragedy and triumph.
Two Titanic Tidbits: Julian Fellowes’ (Downton Abbey) two-night miniseries Titanic debuted April 14th on ABC. If you didn’t catch it or love it enough to watch again – place your hold now in the library’s catalog! Follow events @TitanicRealTime on Twitter where The History Press has set up an account to send real-time (+100 years) updates on the progress of the ship and its only voyage. Start following now to get the whole story as it happened.