This year marks the 100th Anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic! Is it a bit macabre that we all are so fascinated with this massive ship that hit an iceberg on April 14, 1912 and sank, killing all but around 700 of its 2,200 passengers?
Maybe…and yet we still obsess! We want to know what the passengers ate as their last meal (a 13 course affair featuring pâté de foie gras, peaches in chartreuse jelly and Waldorf pudding). We go to see James Cameron’s re-released film in 3-D so we can see Leo and Kate meet their fates (again) bigger than life. Documentaries on the event are a-plenty and seemingly on every channel. Oh, and then there are the book releases!
How strange. We know what happens and yet we can’t look away.
While I’m not sure what this says about our society, I admit that I too have succumbed to the fascination. Recently, I’ve read and enjoyed two books that fictionalise the Titanic tragedy:
In The Dressmaker, by Kate Alcott Tess is a maid in France in 1912 who wants to design dresses, not wash and mend them. With the Titanic in the harbor in Cherbourg, Tess charms her way aboard as lady’s maid to Lady Duff-Gordon, a famous designer whose own maid has taken ill. Spoiler alert: the ship sinks. Tess and the Duff-Gordons survive, but when her new employers come under scrutiny for the conditions of their escape, Tess must decide if she should jeopardize her newfound chance at success by telling what she knows? This atmospheric page-turner is a perfect blend of historical fiction, investigative journalism, and a bit of romance.
Similarly, in Katherine Howe’s The House of Velvet and Glass, Sybil Allston’s life is forever changed by the Titanic’s sinking. After her mother and sister are killed aboard, Sybil, who previously had been resigned to a life of spinsterhood, becomes obsessed with contacting them through a local psychic–an obsession which leads her down an unexpectedly dark path. This novel, rich in historical detail and slow-building suspense, has some real surprises that will keep you up reading late into the night.
Here’s some good news for readers: no life jacket required! Enjoy!