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The Watch That Ends the Night,
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This review is from: The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic (Hardcover)
This year, 2012, marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of Titanic, so there are a lot of new books out and many to choose from. This, though, has to be not only among the best (if not THE best) but also the most original. Written by Allan Wolf, it is a novel in the form of verse and told using the voices of many passengers and crew. These include Captain Smith, John Jacob Astor, Margaret Brown, Harold Bride (one of the wireless operators), Bruce Ismay, Frederick Fleet the lookout and others, even including a rat onboard the ship and the Iceberg Titanic is fated to collide with. This novel takes us on a journey from Titanic beginning to sail to John Snow, an undertaker, who is sent to collect the bodies floating amid the wreckage. We meet millionaires, cardsharps, refugees, a father who has abducted his children, families hoping for a better life and members of the crew, all with their stories to tell.
Even from the very beginning, we sense there is a feeling that the claim of the ship being unsinkable is taunting nature; although, as Captain Smith says, "Of course I am not so foolish as to call her unsinkable, but I will say this: it would take a fool to sink her. I may be many things, but I am no fool." We watch as he welcomes his first class passengers aboard, inwardly sneering as Astor boards with his new, young wife. We watch Jamila, the young refugee, as she meets a young man on board and catches his eye. As the great ship heads for the sea, Harold Lowe, Junior officer, asserts that, "the most pressing disaster on a ship like Titanic is a cup of cocoa spilled on a gentle lady's fur coat." However, we are also aware of the Marconi warnings arriving from other ships, telling of ice.
"Too far from departure to worry about the past, too far from arrival to worry about the future," the ship settles into it's frivolous amusements. We know, though, that disaster awaits. Although we all know, too well, what is about to happen, the author makes the story come alive - the dramatic events even more so now we have come to care for the people we have met. The author asserts that his aim was not to present history, but humanity, and he succeeds brilliantly in this wonderful novel. A very moving book indeed and one I enjoyed immensely. For those interested in reading further about the passengers onboard Titanic, you might enjoy Titanic Lives: Migrants and Millionaires, Conmen and Crew.