A sense of connection drove me to this story and an intriguing twist in terms of the supernatural sealed its fate. I would bribe the author, publisher or NetGalley if necessary to get hold of this ASAP. For the record, I didn’t need to, that’s how NetGalley works – the ARCs, not the bribery.
For years I worked in a building just to the left of the photo and looked at this picture every day, never getting tired of it. The picture shows the Titanic and one of its sister ships the Olympic docked in Belfast. The other sister ship was the Britannic which was refitted as a hospital ship during WWI and also suffered a doomed voyage when it hit a mine in the Mediterranean Sea and sank, leading to the stories that they were cursed.
Annie Hebbley is the main character in two timelines, firstly during her voyage as a maid on the RMS Titanic and secondly as a nurse on the Titanic’s sister ship HMHS Britannic, and a survivor of both. While Annie is a fictional character in this novel, she is drawn in similar roles as her friend throughout, Violet Jessop. Violet Jessop was a real person who survived the sinking of both ships and was also on board the Olympic when it encountered a major sinkable incident.
The biographical story of Violet Jessop is an extremely interesting and fascinating one, and it was a very clever call from Alma Katsu to give her a place in this novel.
Alma Katsu is a wonderfully descriptive writer and weaves the fictional narrative of a story with the factual incidents and people of the time. The opulence of the Titanic and its wealthy passengers is really well portrayed along with their fascination with the Occult. The unique perspective Alma brings to this story is the threat of paranormal and demonic forces that are haunting the ships and threatening evil actions. Onboard the Britannic doors get locked and items go missing all without a valid explanation. The rumours start, that the ship is haunted, but then again there is the confusion of war and the ship is filled with very sick often mentally damaged patients. What is unsettling for Annie is that she recognises an unconscious soldier as Mark Fletcher from the Titanic voyage but she believed he died when the ship sank. Mark was a first-class passenger with his wife and child but Annie had an infatuation with him and now he is alone and will finally belong to her.
Well, did I expect too much from this book? – Yes, I did. It didn’t come alive as much as I hoped or spark the pervasive menacing atmosphere that suggestions of curses and hauntings would invoke. The anticipated drama of paranormal activity didn’t really materialise and bring terror and fear, even with the Irish fascination of spirits and demons.
I enjoyed reading the book but just felt it lacked a strong storytelling plot, so I’ve rated it 3.5 stars. I would recommend reading this book and it may appeal more to readers who haven’t read, watched or visited as much about the Titanic story as I have. I would like to thank Bantam Press, Random House UK and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of the book in return for an honest review.