Friday, September 23, 2011

The Watch that Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic by Allan Wolf

Everyone knows the story of the sinking of the Titanic, but now you can hear the story in a thoroughly unique way.  In the voices of Captain Smith, the lookout, the wireless man, J. J. Astor, a Lebanese immigrant girl, the undertaker who comes to recover the bodies, and many more, characters tell their stories as the Titanic makes its first and only journey.

This was certainly an interesting read.  What I found most interesting was getting to hear about things from the perspectives of people who don't often get mentioned, like the wireless man who was sending out the messages for help, or the immigrants in third class, or the children on board.   I wished there had been more women's voices.  The only women were Margaret Brown (the "unsinkable Molly Brown", even she was never called Molly), and the Lebanese immigrant girl.  There were women working on the Titanic, I would have liked to hear their stories along with the stories of the stokers and the baker and the wireless man.

Several of the voices let you get to know characters better than in other Titanic stories.  For instance, Bruce Ismay is often framed as a bit of a villain, getting the captain to go faster (not true) and getting into a lifeboat before the ship went down.  Through his own voice we get a bit of a different perspective, although even in this version he seemed plenty full of himself. 

There were also voices I didn't really like, like the iceberg.  After a few iceberg sections, I started skimming over them whenever they came up.  The iceberg thinks in verse, and apparently knew the Titanic was coming and was going to hit it.  I didn't feel like it added anything to the story, and actually found it a little annoying.

I had a hard time getting into this at first.  Things kind of slogged along for the first half, as everyone gets aboard and is introduced.  Things picked up, naturally, after the iceberg was hit.  Before that, well, people weren't thinking very interesting things.  They were just going about their daily lives, and there really wasn't a whole lot to do on the ship, as fancy as it was.  I did definitely get a feel for the strict class differences.  Everyone was so consciously aware of them, and there was a huge different between first and second class, and second and third class.

Probably my favorite part about this book was at the end, where information about all the characters was provided.  Each character is based on a real person who sailed on the Titanic, and I really enjoyed reading about them and finding out what happened to the lucky ones that made it off.  I also liked reading the Titanic miscellany section, that list all sorts of things, to the number of people who made it off to how many tons of potatoes were on board.

Kids who love historical fiction because they like to understand how things were in a particular time will enjoy this inside look.

The Watch that Ends the Night comes out October 11.

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