50 in 2012: Book Thirty Five

The DressmakerThe Dressmaker by Kate Alcott

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My immediate reaction upon closing this book after having read the final word was to give it three stars; however, after mulling it over, the profound moral dilemma that stands as the focus of this novel still sticks with me. Hence, the fours stars.

I was disappointed that the opulence and beauty of the ship was essentially glossed over. Having read “Titanic” in the synopsis I assumed the focus of the novel would contain a great deal about the ship itself and the goings on while on board. Not so much. Instead, the story revolves around choices, specifically those made in the face of known tragedy: does one act in courage or in fear…

Lady Lucille Duff Gordon has always got her way. Power and obedience are the mainstays to becoming one of her entourage. Tess, does not fit that bill. Feisty, opinionated, and driven to succeed she is the very opposite of a stately, obedient “lady”. Yet, fate brings them together on the day the Titanic is set to sail off to America. Lucille reluctantly takes Tess under her wing to come aboard the ship and travel along her side as her maid.

As history tells, disaster soon strikes the passengers of the ill-fated Titanic and all aboard are faced to make choices. There were heroes, victims, survivors. And there was Lucille Duff. Whether out of fear, courage, or selfishness, her choices spark a controversy that would alter Tess’ outlook on humanity forever. Some choices made later haunted the survivors: should they have stayed to parish alongside loved ones or fought for a spot on a lifeboat? For those on the lifeboats, could they have done more for the others?

The story itself was a little disappointing but the idea of the poignant choices made by heroes and villains alike on that extraordinarily tragic day stick with me. Is the ethical fortitude of one man enough to challenge the minds of others fearing their life? Were the male survivors less of men for saving their life? Were the women who stayed behind better partners than those who boarded the lifeboats? I am fascinated by the history behind the story more so than the book itself.

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