Exploring the inner lives and conflicts of three main characters, each of whom is a member of the band during the Titanic's maiden voyage, Fosnes Hansen recreates the unstable and dismal world each man inhabits at the dawn of World War I. Jason Coward is bandmaster, Leo Lewenhaupt, known as Spot Hauptmann, is the pianist, and young David Bleierstein is a violinist. Together with two lesser developed characters, Alex from St. Petersburg, and Petronius from Rome, they raise the big questions of how we become who we are, how much freedom we have to make choices in our lives, and to what extent we can control our destinies.
Each of these characters is in some way a captain without a ship. As Fosnes Hansen brings them alive through the poignant and often harrowing tales of their youth, including the death of their dreams and the sorrows which have led them to the Titanic, we see them as ordinary people whose lives might have been completely different if just one or two circumstances had changed. Lonely and self-destructive, all have found love to be illusory and a stable and loving family life to be impossible. In the consummate irony, the Titanic may offer hope, for "A ship is a star...a star of dreams."
A writer of great intensity, Fosnes Hansen's portrayals of his characters are simultaneously gripping and sympathetic, his stories and anecdotes realistic and moving. Not given to flights of lyricism, the author creates his images through his selection of perfect details and by providing access to the vibrant inner lives of the characters. Revealing the Titanic as a microcosm of life in 1914, the author also offers many symbolic scenes--rat fights, the execution of beloved pets, puppet shows, for example--which broaden the reader's perspective on the characters and their times. Though the ending fizzles with the sinking of the ship, the novel is startling, not only in its own right, but because it so clearly foreshadows the author's later novel, Tales of Protection, a novel which is more fully developed thematically and which soars! Mary Whipple