The Ghost of the Mary Celeste Hardcover – 20 Feb 2014
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THE GHOST OF THE MARY CELESTE is a wonderfully ingenious novel, compelling, convincing and exciting. (John Banville)
Valerie Martin is a writer of immense talent and insight. Her latest novel weaves a beautiful tale of loss, love and the connections that link us. One moment we're aboard the doomed ship, another we're in the pages of a diary, yet another we're looking at a tragedy. THE GHOST OF THE MARY CELESTE offers readers a riveting cast and evocative prose. (Yann Martel, bestselling author of LIFE OF PI)
A masterpiece of fine detail and intense reimagining. (Christobel Kent THE GUARDIAN)
In December 1872, the brig the Mary Celeste was discovered in the middle of the Atlantic, headed for Gibraltar, perfectly intact, and with no one aboard. The famous mystery lies at the heart of this wonderful, truly haunting novel, but it's a mystery which this very talented American novelist approaches obliquely and from a handful of viewpoints, before and after the ship's disappearance... It is all really rather brilliantly done - fluently written, vividly imagined, moving and genuinely, chillingly spooky. (Harry Ritchie DAILY MAIL)
This tale of ghost ships, mystery writers and seances is dripping with atmosphere (THE TIMES)
The Ghost of the Mary Celeste is an unusual page-turner from an Orange Prize-winning novelist, paying homage to Robert Louis Stevenson, Joseph Conrad and Conan Doyle (Hope Whitmore THE INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY)
This is a fiction permeated by absence. Gradually we come to understand that it is not just the events about theMary Celeste that are unknowable: that mystery is merely a spectacular version of the enigmas that haunt all transactions. The amused clarity of Martin's prose lends itself well to anatomising the ineffable. (Jane Shilling NEW STATESMAN)
The discovery of the Mary Celeste in 1872, adrift and unmanned, continues to inspire and intrigue. The enigma surrounding its fate is retold in this riveting tale that delivers a convincing portrait of the era, while also sustaining our curiosity. Masterfully weaving fact and fiction, it focuses on the relationship between a cynical journalist and the psychic cousin of the missing ship's captain, as they both try to unearth what happened. Written in vivid prose, it is an evocative account of Victorian scepticism. A maritime ghost story that keeps you guessing. (THE LADY)
A sly and masterly historical novel, a page-turner written with intelligence and flair (John Vernon THE SCOTSMAN)
Vivid descriptions of life at sea (THE MAIL ON SUNDAY)
For a spooky sea-set tale, try Valerie Martin's The Ghost of the Mary Celeste, which gives the 19th-century story of an abandoned vessel a fine new spin (Erica Wagner HARPER'S BAZAAR)
This historical novel explores with eerie brilliance the stories that are created to make sense of things that are inexplicable... In this intelligent, impressionistic work, Martin never tackles the story of the ship's mysterious vanishing head-on. Instead, she plays with notions of 19th-century ghost and sensation stories to draw the reader into a death-obsessed Victorian culture. (Tina Jackson METRO)
Valerie Martin has woven a brilliant novel around the main characters whose lives were touched by this tragedy... This book is a true page turner. It reminded me somewhat of "The Luminaries" (somewhat shorter!) in the entwining of the lives of the main players... It is a highly readable, emotional (but never sentimental) version of events. Highly recommended both for groups and the individual reader. (NEWBOOKS MAGAZINE)
Martin builds a fascinating world around her main players, blurring the line between fact and fiction with aplomb. But the author's richest writing is in the numerous moments where the story takes to the water - these passages are wonderfully evocative, vividly describing life at sea, where calm and beauty can give way to chaos and tragedy at a moment's notice. Part ghost story, part seafaring adventure, I recommend this to anyone who fancies bringing a bit of mystery into their literary lives (Chris Gray IRISH EXAMINER)
A sly and masterly historical novel, a page-turner written with intelligence and flair... Through her ingenious weaving of fiction and fact, she both 'solves' the mystery and (as one of her characters says) deepens it ... Valerie Martin never sacrifices the richness of her novel for easy answers. She's more interested in the questions. And so, then, are we. (NEW YORK TIMES (USA))
Martin, who won Britain's Orange Prize for her historical novel "Property", slips into the 19th century with the ease of a time traveler. Her period set pieces are superb, from descriptions of the Briggs family picking plums for jam ("The trees were dripping heavy, dark fruit") to Conan Doyle's scrutiny of the Mediterranean-themed garden a sea captain's widow has planted in a West Hampstead housing development, with rosemary bushes pruned into pyramids and pots of begonias "shiny as porcelain." (THE BOSTON GLOBE (USA))
an intricate, suspenseful novel (HISTORICAL NOVELS REVIEW)
A bravura book (History Today)
Valerie Martin has created a gripping fictionalisation of the passengers' stories (GOOD HOUSEKEEPING)
This is a fiction permeated by absence. Gradually we come to understand that it is not just the events about the Mary Celeste that are unknowable: that mystery is merely a spectacular version of the enigmas that haunt all transactions. The amused clarity of Martin's prose lends itself well to anatomising the ineffable. (Jane Shilling NEW STATESMAN)
A bravura book (HISTORY TODAY)
Valerie Martin has created a gripping fictionalisation of the passengers' stories (Margaret Atwood GOOD HOUSEKEEPING)
From the ORANGE PRIZE-winning author, an enthralling novel about an enduring mystery, an infamous mystic and Arthur Conan Doyle.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Martin delves into the family background of the real captain of the vessel, Benjamin Briggs, his wife Sarah and daughter Sophie who were lost with him on that fateful voyage. The family had already been blighted by the loss of many members at sea when Briggs and his wife set sail from New York, headed for Gibraltar with a cargo of alcohol on board. In Martin’s version of events, Briggs is a kind-hearted but respected captain, a teetotaller who would never have allowed his crew to drink (drunkenness is one of many theories which abound as to why the crew abandoned the ship).
Extracts from diaries, newspaper articles and ships logs are interspersed with the narrative, giving the reader a real feeling of being part of the investigation. Central to the storyline is the involvement of erstwhile Victorian author/ghost hunter/psychic researcher Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who is drawn into the affair whilst investigating the claims of the enigmatic young psychic, Violet Petra. There’s a fascinating insight into Doyle’s early life as a ship’s doctor on an arctic whaling fleet, and his emerging interest in the supernatural.
Fittingly there are no easy answers and the end of the book, and I was slightly disappointed at the lack of an Author’s Note at the end of the book as I would have liked to have learned more about Martin’s research and how closely she chose to stick to the known facts (such as they are). However, a bit of googling after finishing the book soon satisfied my curiosity.
The narrative is organised like a relay race as the story-telling baton is passed between narrators: sometimes the connections are very clear, other times a little more opaque. At the heart of the tale is the sea which is both vast and unknowable in itself, and also serves as a symbol for all that is enigmatic and inexplicable about human life.
Some of the stories are almost unbearably tragic, and take their power from the light touch of the author who delineates a whole relationship from the small moments of daily life – and this book contains one of the most human, funny and celebratory depictions of a Victorian wedding night that I have ever read.
Martin is always a sensitive, delicate and perceptive writer, and there is a lovely luminous quality to her prose, whether she’s writing of first love, or sea-sickness or death. She tells the story through a variety of written media: the implied fiction of Conan Doyle, a journalist’s memoir, a journal – and the story stretches from 1859 to 1898. The mystery of the Mary Celeste weaves through all the tales and, though there is a suggestion of what ‘really’ happened, the ‘solution’ is itself a fictional one.
Ultimately, this isn’t about solving the (or any) mystery – instead it’s a gorgeously rendered depiction of the mysteries of life and death.
There was some good writing in here - I liked the way the spirits were as banal and boring as the living were and I liked the way that the author solved the mystery of the Mary Celeste without actually solving it (I was wondering how she would address this, being as I believe it is still something of a mystery today). This was probably a really well researched story but sadly that's what it read like - there wasn't that much magic in there and for that reason, I found it a bit dull. Was glad when I got to the end.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I haven't yet finished this book but it is very good. As often in her writing she combines the ordinary and the uncanny, the human and the non-human into a seamless and convincing... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Stuart Jones
Some excellent descriptive and well-researched prose but slow in places.Published 3 months ago by Briony Pope
Beguiling and beautifully written. The plight of the medium is disturbing and moving. Will read more by this author. The moods and power of the sea are superbly captured.Published 4 months ago by Frank W
IT WAS JUST WHAT MY FRIEND WANTED,AND HE HASN'T STOPPED READING IT.Published 4 months ago by Janet Collins
Frustrating drivel. Pretentious twaddle. Head nor tail. 12 hours of my life I won't get back. Avoid.Published 10 months ago by JustABookFan
Fabulous storytelling that blends fact and fiction to produce a compelling and entertaining tale.
The narrative is made up of letters, diaries and log of the Mary Celeste... Read more
A hotchpotch of a book not at all what I had expected from the title. Frankly I didn't find it very well written and it left me feeling somewhat disappointed.Published 20 months ago by S Humphreys
Wonderful storytelling which takes the form of a well written and thoroughly engaging account of the Mary Celeste which blends some facts with fiction. Read morePublished 23 months ago by Terrier girl
I found this book confusing to read and difficult to follow. Characters seemed to come and go with no explanation. Read morePublished 23 months ago by PMD