Sunday, 22 August 2010

Ship of Dreams - Martina Devlin

A group of people meet on one of Titanic's lifeboats, saved from death by random chance. These survivors, drawn from different nationalities and walks of life, have only one factor in common: all have survived a tragedy that captures the world s imagination. This thread binds them together when they are rescued and taken to New York. Two of the survivors are Irish emigrants hoping to make a new life for themselves. Both have a secret: one is carrying a baby and the other has buried a baby. Also on board is a beautiful American girl who has scaled New York society to marry the heir to a hotel fortune. But her gilded life is threatened when he drowns. Then there is the French gentleman s secretary with ambitions to better himself, a US Cavalry officer convinced his dead wife intervened to rescue him, and an English teacher plucked from the sea by the Irish girls. The story follows them from rescue to arrival in New York, centre of their hopes and expectations. But certainties have been shattered and life in the Titanic s wake can never be the same again.

I began reading this book about a month after I watched the film Titanic for the first time. Since I’d barely started school at the time of Titanic’s release, I didn’t get around to watching it until I was at university. Many discussions ensued about what we’d do in Rose’s situation – my best friends were convinced that I’d go after the love of my life, whereas I believed that my boyfriend would have tied me into a lifeboat in order to make sure I didn’t do anything as stupid and reckless as Rose did – but what hit me most about the film wasn’t the love story, but the catastrophic loss of life. It almost had the same affect on me as Schindler’s List did. Thus I racked my brains for the name of the Titanic-themed novel that I knew I had buried in my TBR pile back in my parents’ house and picked it up the next time I visited. I started reading it in the early hours of the morning on Monday morning – after working several early shifts at the Open, my brain decided to automatically wake me up at 6am that day – and found the initial introduction a bit cheesy, but once I got into the book later that day I couldn’t put it down. Even after the fuss about the Titanic died down, the characters were still very engaging. I particularly liked Bridie (whose name I constantly read as “Birdie”) and Hannah’s story, as well as the Major’s and the details about Edmund’s crush on Bridie. I have to admit that I didn’t really care for Nancy and Louis’s love story as it was hard to believe that Louis had been infatuated with her since their first brief meeting. Nancy and her relationships with her mother and mother-in-law were interesting – the politics of high society always are – but the ending with her and Louis just struck me as a bit over-the-top and cheesy. Perhaps that wasn’t the best extract to include in the introduction either. Yet overall, I really enjoyed reading about these characters and found it a fascinating period of history. The emphasis on the differences between rural Irish life and that in the city of New York also intrigued me, and made me want to know more about developing America. Devlin also created several interesting minor characters, including Nancy’s mother, Violet, and the black woman, Ellen, whom Hannah befriended. Although they didn’t feature constantly throughout the book, they were incredibly believable. All in all, I was very satisfied with this book, and the only faults I would believe worthy of comment were that Nancy and Louis’s relationship didn’t quite seem convincing enough, and that Edmund’s character didn’t seem quite as developed as the rest, other than his crush on Bridie. This book gets an 8/10 from me and I hope that Devlin writes more historical novels in the future.

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