Saturday, December 17, 2011

Review: The Dressmaker

Don't you love how clever and original my blog titles are? I spend so much time sitting at my desk, chin in hand, pondering ways to amuse my readers.
And today, dear readers, I am going to review Kate Walcott's The Dressmaker. The cover for this novel is eye-arresting, with a beautiful purple dress on the cover, worn by a faceless woman (intrigue! glamour!)...

The Dressmaker is an historical fiction, revolving around that famous boat ride on the Titanic. Protagonist Tess is a feisty lass who doesn't want to demean herself any longer in a position of servitude, and consequently voluntarily agrees to temporarily act as lady's maid to the famed dress designer Lucille Duff Gordon so that she can sail the Titanic to a new world, and a new life.
Now, I don't want to ruin the book for anyone, but I cannot discuss this book without some spoilers. So read on, AT YOUR PERIL.

The Titanic, while a beautiful, luxurious boat, has a tiny flaw - it can't hold its' own against a giant iceberg.
This big boat is not equipped to handle ice -
I bet those were some warm drinks...

Now, don't get me wrong. This book was not complete shit. Just the majority of it was shit. There was this weird love triangle between Tess, a sailor much in the same situation as she - poor, trying to make a life for himself in a new country, [insert cliche here], and an older, rich gentleman whom she was incredibly attracted to who treated her like an e
qual. She liked both of them, for different reasons, and always seemed to have green grass syndrome - she was always thinking of and pining for the other gentleman when she was with one of them. This I found very annoying, despite the fact that it's probably pretty accurate.
Then, this novel dealt with some unpleasant aspects of suffering a catastrophe. The fact is, not everyone is a hero. In fact, most people aren't heroes. And most people probably would not be heroes in a situation like the Titanic. Being on a boat that was thought unsinkable, but is, in fact, sinking, would be extremely frightening. Instinct tends towards self-preservation.

This novel made me think about the people who weren't heroes. The ordinary people, the ones who said: "I'm not against other people living, but I don't want to die." The ones who did not go out of their way to help save other people, the ones who did not selflessly go down with the ship, playing music, or patiently waiting in a tuxedo.

The ones more like me.

Of course, Tess was one of those annoying goody-two-shoes, who is like: "It is my personal responsibility to save every child on this ship -" Very valiant; not necessarily the most interesting of characteristics, however.

Heroes, after all, tend to be most interesting when they're rescuing you. Possibly tend only to be interesting when they're rescuing you, unless they are extremely well written.

I liked the way this novel broadened my thinking. I hated Tess, who frankly can't live up to the name usurped from a Thomas Hardy novel...

Well, except for this BBC miniseries adaptation, which manages to make Tess of the D'urbervilles seem like the most boring story ever...

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