As the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic approaches, there will be many commemorative books released and events scheduled. (Director James Cameron is releasing a 3D version of his prize-winning film, Titanic, starring Leonardo Dicaprio and Kate Winslet on April 6.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kVrqfYjkTdQ
If you are interested in focusing on this tragic event for your book club this spring, I can think of no better title to recommend than Allan Wolf’s The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices From the Titanic. This work of fiction reads like a spellbinding work of non-fiction, history and poetry all in one.
The tale of the maiden voyage is told through the voices of over a dozen passengers, crew members, a ship’s rat and even the fateful iceberg itself. Each voice tells its story for a page or two, from the construction of the ship, to its departure and the voyage where it met its destiny:
My name is John Snow.
You could say that my living is death.
I am the undertaker.
I have come for the bodies.
(John Snow the Undertaker)
The Millionaire thinks Titanic is a ship of pleasure.
The Immigrant thinks the Titanic is a ship of dreams.
But they are both wrong. For Titanic is not a ship at all.
Titanic is just good business. Very good business.
(Bruce Ismay the Businessman)
I am the Ice. I see tides ebb and flow.
I’ve watched civilizations come and go,
give birth, destroy, restore, be gone, begin …
now that my emergence is complete, there is a certain ship I
long to meet …
You see, Titanic, like a beehive, is constructed of cells…
if one cell was to flood, the water could be contained in that compartment alone.
In fact, four cells could be flooded all at once and still Titanic would not flounder.
The odds of a breach in five compartments at once…
Well, I’m not a gambling man, especially when lives are at stake,
but if I did make the bet, I daresay I’d be set for life.
(Thomas Andrews, Titanic Shipbuilder)
I see, then, a blackness in the blackness,
a certain solid quality to the night
that makes me shake my head.
a whale? a rock? a derelict ship?
Still a ways off. Something small.
No. Bigger. Closer. Growing larger
with every passing second …
“Iceberg,” I say.
“Iceberg, straight ahead!”
(Frederick Fleet, The Lookout)
This is one of those books that you will sacrifice sleep to finish, even though you already know how the story ends. Don’t skip the Author’s Note at the end of the book – it is filled with over 20 pages of fascinating facts about the ship and its passengers that you may never have heard before!