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1 Beaverton Literature- A to Z

The Dressmaker

by

The Dressmaker Cover

 

 

Reading Group Guide

1. The sinking of the Titanic in 1912 remains in many people’s eyes a symbolic dividing line between a world with rigid class divisions and one with a rising middle class. Tess yearned to be part of the glamour and Jim wanted to be free of its constraints. Can a happy medium be found between these two desires, not only for Tess and Jim, but for anyone in similar circumstances?

 

2. Tess and Pinky were two young women in a rapidly changing world, on the cusp of a time when women could actually make choices about their lives and work.  Describe how the choices for women one hundred years ago differ from today, and how they remain the same.

 

3. Tess and Pinky are both smart, competent women who experience moments of both conflict and companionship with one another. What ultimately draws them together and bonds their friendship?

 

4. In many ways Tess is unflappable and emotionally direct, but at times, she can be anxious and uncertain, especially around Lucille.  Dealing with design—fabric, texture, and color seem to be the best route to confidence. What does this say about Tess’ personality?

 

5. What is your overall impression of Lucile?  Is she a villain or simply misunderstood? If her arrogance and sense of privilege are what got her into trouble, what redeeming factors—if any—do you see in her?

 

6. How would you argue Lucille’s case? Compare her treatment to that of celebrities of our own time who get caught in controversy.

 

7. Fashion is its own character in the book—both glamorous and fickle. Is the fashion industry viewed differently now than it was in 1912? Who is Lucille’s design equivalent today? Or was Lucille incomparable?

 

8. If Lucille’s career had not declined after the sinking, do you think she could have evolved as a designer and conformed to society’s new opinions of the female figure and fashion? Or were both Lucille and her designs destined to become obsolete?

 

9. Only one of twenty lifeboats went back for survivors. Many people felt anguish and regret; others believed they had no choice.  Can you picture yourself in that same situation? Husbands, children in the water—what comes first, the instinct to survive or to save others? How would you hope you would act?

 

10. Øfficer Harold Lowe was criticized for declaring he waited until the pleas for help from the water “thinned out” before going back on a rescue mission.  This kind of blunt honesty shocked those who heard it. Are we still adverse to hearing hard facts from those whom we want to be heroes?

 

11. Using the “whitewash brush,” as a ship officer put it, the White Star Line did its best to deny all responsibility for the Titanic tragedy. Its officers even falsely claimed at first that the ship had not sunk, raising the hopes of the families waiting on land. What parallels do you see with White Star’s corporate reaction and current corporate self-protectiveness?

 

12. Did you find out anything new about the Titanic from reading the book? Were you aware of the hearings that occurred after the sinking?

Product Details

ISBN:
9780385535588
Author:
Alcott, Kate
Publisher:
Doubleday Books
Subject:
Historical
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Publication Date:
20120231
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Language:
English
Pages:
320
Dimensions:
9.52 x 6.46 x 1.2 in 1.42 lb

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Related Subjects


Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Debut Fiction
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » New Arrivals
Fiction and Poetry » Romance » Historical

The Dressmaker Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$8.95 In Stock
Product details 320 pages Doubleday Books - English 9780385535588 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "The class tensions, politics, and fashion of the heady 1910s collide in this disappointingly conventional novel set aboard the Titanic and in the aftermath of its sinking. Tenacious Tess Collins, a maid determined to use her seamstress skills to transcend her class, meets world-renowned fashion designer Lucile Duff Gordon just moments before boarding the majestic and doomed ship. Lucile's hesitant agreement to hire Tess as her personal maid sends both women on a life-altering trajectory of volatile friendship, convoluted mentoring, loyalty, and conflict, all of which comes to a head in the wake of their survival. The notoriety and familiarity of the Titanic story demands a fresh retelling, a challenge Alcott, in her fiction debut, doesn't quite meet. Plowing into an iceberg not only sinks the Titanic, it largely sinks Alcott's narrative, as she shifts focus to testimonies, politics, and 'Pinky' Wade, a headstrong female journalist making her way in a chauvinistic world and stirring up trouble in Tess's life. Pinky and a handful of other side characters beleaguer rather than benefit the novel, although Alcott redeems her story with Tess, managing a sweetness that stops short of cloying in her heroine's ever-positive perseverance." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Synopsis" by , Just in time for the centennial anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic comes a vivid, romantic, and relentlessly compelling historical novel about a spirited young seamstress who survives the disaster only to find herself deeply torn between two men and embroiled in the media frenzy left in the wake of the tragedy.

 

Tess, an aspiring seamstress, thinks she's had an incredibly lucky break when she is hired by famous designer Lady Lucile Duff Gordon to be a personal maid on the Titanic's doomed voyage. Once on board, Tess catches the eye of two men, one a rugged but sensitive sailor and the other a mysterious Chicago millionaire. All survive the sinking, but Lady Duff Gordon's actions during the disaster make her the subject of media scorn and later the hearings on the Titanic. Torn between admiration for the designer and dismay at her behavior, and between two very different suitors, Tess must navigate the complex waters of life and love. Set against a historical tragedy but told from a completely fresh angle, The Dressmaker is an atmospheric delight filled with all the period's glitz and glamour as well as all the thrilling excitement of young love.

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