Really wanted to like this more

11 07 2012

I really wanted to like “The Dressmaker” by Kate Alcott more. I really did. Alas, I have to be honest and say it fell flat. On a five-star scale, I feel two stars is more appropriate, but I’m giving it three for some indefinable reason that may come to me upon reflection. Three stars is what my gut says, anyhow.

Alcott says the book was built around the question of why only one lifeboat went back to rescue Titanic survivors. The book may have been built around that question, but that question is far from what the book is about. Too bad (if it was about that question, it would’ve been told from the POV of at least one character in a lifeboat that didn’t go back to rescue survivors; as it is, we hear all such rationale secondhand). It could’ve been so much more, and I tell y’all this: if Alcott ever revises it so it should be what it ought to be, I’ll read it. I don’t think I could say that about any other book that disappointed me. In any case, Alcott is a journalist, and it shows. She uses a lot of POVs in the book and doesn’t get into the minds of any character enough. She’s more about reciting facts and saying so and so happened. Plus, the character of Tess is unbelievable. For a girl who is supposed to be so “smart,” she isn’t. Things happen to her too easily as well.

I think Alcott may have been better off writing this as non-fiction. That way, she could actually speculate on what happened. One issue is that she may be trying to tackle too much. The book covers less than a month in “real time,” and a heck of a lot it covers: a girl quitting her job, getting a new job on the Titanic, two immediate love interests, moving out of the worst lodgings pretty much right away, the sinking, the rescues, the aftermath, the hearings in New York, D.C. and then New York again, new characters and new POVs and on and on. This kind of sprawling framework would work better as a non-fiction. This book read a lot like a TV show, and if it were adapted to TV, it could work pretty well, I think.








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