John Jacob Astor is bringing his new teen bride home after a honeymoon in Egypt, and he’s hoping to avoid the media scandal when everyone finds out she’s quite pregnant. A Lebanese refugee and her brother are traveling to family in Florida, where a new life awaits them. A professional gambler tries to take the passengers for all their worth. A captain sets sail on his final voyage before retirement on the biggest ship ever created. And out in the ocean, an iceberg floats along, waiting for its moment. Twenty-four voices come alive in Allan Wolf’s verse novel about the infamous Titanic.
In this lyrical novel, Wolf brings to life the events of the Ship of Dreams and its doomed maiden voyage. The history of the event comes to life in this beautifully written and unusual novel. Although it reads as though it were an oral history, Wolf imbues his characters with enough depth to keep things interesting and amps up the drama as events move towards the inevitable collision.
It’s clear that Wolf did an enormous amount of research for this novel, and it pays off. Each character is fully realized and absolutely human. They are all just telling their stories. There’s no agenda here, and no judgment: Wolf simply wants to provide an accessible record of events for readers unfamiliar with the historical event. Each voice is all the more meaningful because readers realize what fate awaits them in the icy waters of the Atlantic.
This is absolutely a great read for fans of historical fiction. Readers looking for more information about the Titanic but not wishing to get bogged down in dry facts will be rewarded as this one is rife with information without ever feeling didactic. Unusual perspectives (like those of the iceberg and the ship rats) provide more color into a story that is already brimming with memorable characters.
The Watch that Ends the Night by Allan Wolf. Candlewick: 2012. Library copy.