Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Titanic week - part 2

Today’s post looks at three novels I’ve recently read related to the Titanic.
Deadly Voyage: RMS Titanic, Jamie Laidlaw, Crossing the Atlantic, 1912 by Hugh Brewster

This is part of the I Am Canada series, directed at boys from grades 5 to 9, and written in a diary-like format that provides a fictional perspective about real-life events.  Jamie Laidlaw (fictional protagonist) is sailing with his parents as a first-class passengers to Canada on the Titanic.  It reads very much like an adventure boy book conveying all the expected excitement about sailing on the world’s largest ocean liner.  Through Jamie we meet some of the real people who were on Titanic’s maiden voyage and get to visit various parts of the ship as Jamie explores it with newly made friends.  The collision with the iceberg and subsequent sinking of the ship are detailed, as well as the rescue by the Carpathia and what happens afterwards.  Jamie and his mother survive.  His father does not.  The author, Hugh Brewster, has done substantial research for a number of books about the Titanic.  This is evident in the number of details about the ship and passengers that he includes in the narrative, though I didn’t find it too cumbersome or overwhelming.  He also includes a historical note, glossary and photographs.
A good adventure story and fairly quick read.
No Moon by Irene N. Watts (823 W347N FIC)
This is for the same age group as Deadly Voyage but will likely appeal to girls more than boys.  I enjoyed this novel more as a historical novel taking place in the early 1900s than a book about the sinking of the Titanic.  Louisa Gardener is a fully developed character whom we get to know and understand.  We see where she comes from, her family circumstances, the time period she lives in and other secondary characters that provide context and opportunity for Louisa to grow.  At fourteen she is taken on as a nursemaid in an affluent household where she starts to feel a bit of independence but still must deal with a particularly overbearing Nanny.  When Nanny is unable to accompany the family on the Titanic, Louisa is asked to go along instead.  She overcomes her fear of the ocean (due to a family tragedy that she experienced when she was only five-years-old) and agrees.  It’s a pleasure to see Louisa become more confident as well as enjoy herself on the grand ocean liner.  The nightmarish qualities of the night the ship sinks is vividly conveyed as a mix of chaos, anxiety, the responsibility of looking after two small children, second-guessing choices, and finally enduring the long hours waiting to be rescued
I highly recommend this one.
The Watch that Ends the Night : voices from the Titanic by Allan Wolf (823 W8312W FIC)
Okay, I have to fess up – I just didn’t connect with this one.  I really wanted to – I loved the cover and the title, it was told in narrative verse, it was for older readers and look like it was going to give me something different.   Overall, I just found it heavy going especially at the beginning.  It got better after about the half way mark which is way longer than I usually stick with a book I’m not enjoying.
 It’s told in 25 different voices of various real passengers of all classes (including amongst others, the Captain, the very wealthy John Astor, immigrants and a con man to name a few), a ship's rat and the iceberg itself. There seemed to be too many people to keep track of and not much to distinguish the voices from each other.  Maybe this was because I didn’t connect emotionally to any of them despite the individual storylines.  The tone of each verse is very introspective. So, although I was inside their heads they just didn’t engage my heart, which was disappointing.  The verses from the perspective of the iceberg are the ones that really bothered me as I just couldn’t buy into the idea that this inanimate object would have its ‘eye’ on the Titanic.  I found this voice particularly ponderous, affected and slightly ominous.  It was interesting to see the iceberg passages get smaller towards the end of the novel, shrinking as the iceberg melts.  The author’s notes are really interesting. He has a paragraph about each of the passengers he included, based on his extensive research, details about the ship (trivia lovers will rejoice – number of couples on honeymoons, number of black passengers, time required to build ship, sink ship and watch movie, etc.), and extensive bibliography/resource list.
This one has received fairly good reviews so decide for yourselves whether this one is for you or your students. Suggested for grades 8 and up.

There are lots of books about the Titanic, old and new.  So I'm sure you'll find something that will suit you.
Drop me a line with your recommendations.


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