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Adult Books 4 Teens
Inside Adult Books 4 Teens

The Dressmaker

As we all know by now, it’s the centennial anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. Here is the first (surely not the last!) AB4T review of a book based on those events.

Kate Alcott’s historical novel encompasses both the tragedy itself and the subsequent Senate hearings, about which teens are likely much less familiar. The author did a great deal of research, immersing herself in the period, including, of course, the fashions.

Actually, Kate Alcott is a pen name. As reported in the New York Times a couple weeks ago, author Patricia O’Brien received rejection after rejection for The Dressmaker, her sixth novel — until her agent submitted it under a different name. Then it sold in 3 days. It’s an interesting commentary on the publishing world.

ALCOTT, Kate. The Dressmaker. 320p. Doubleday. 2012. Tr $24.95. ISBN 978-0-385-535588. LC 2011018899.  The Dressmaker e1330798950742 The Dressmaker

Adult/High School–The 1912 sinking of the Titanic is the stone at the center of a ripple expanding to encompass the rest of the world in this fictionalized account of real historical persons and events. It is a layered story highlighting class differences and the public and private personas people put on as easily as high-fashion dresses, illustrating both the tragedy’s individual torment as well as a larger wave of survivor’s guilt. Multiple points of view bring many perspectives to the witch-hunt atmosphere and courtroom drama of a shocked world looking for someone to blame. By setting the story mainly in New York City, Alcott contrasts Lady Duff Gordon’s lush, glittering world of high society with reporter Pinky Wade’s tenement squalor and seamstress Tess Collins’s ambition and longing for freedom. Tess, the fulcrum of a star-crossed love triangle with two fellow survivors, a twice-divorced wealthy American and a sailor with a talent for woodcarving, never loses her integrity as she struggles to make sense of everything. These small stories stand for hundreds of others whose voices were stolen by the tragedy as survivors faced the consequences of indiscretion and quick tongues. A low hum of background action–suffragettes and union tensions–mirrors the human costs in the disaster that besets the Titanic. Teens interested in historical fiction (and love triangles) will find much to think about in this story shaped by the inherent desire to know more about one of the most documented and researched tragedies in human history.–Charli Osborne, Oxford Public Library, MI

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Angela Carstensen About Angela Carstensen

Angela Carstensen is Head Librarian and an Upper School Librarian at Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City. Angela served on the Alex Awards committee for four years, chairing the 2008 committee, and chaired the first YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adult committee in 2009. Recently, she edited Outstanding Books for the College Bound: Titles and Programs for a New Generation (ALA Editions, 2011). Contact her via Twitter @AngeReads.

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