(Image from Barnes & Noble)
In a review I posted a week or so ago, I said so many books have been written about the sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic that creating an original account of it may be impossibile. Well, that was before I read The Watch That Ends the Night by poet and storyteller Allan Wolf. Because guess what? This novel-in-verse actually does the impossible - it brings something new to Titanic's famous story. Not only that, but it does it in a way that's riveting, impactful and memorable. Kind of like the great ship itself.
Many of Wolf's characters are familiar - Thomas Andrews (Titanic's builder), E.J. Smith (her captain), Bruce Ismay (managing director of White Star Line), John Jacob Astor (the American millionaire), Margaret "Molly" Brown (the unsinkable socialite), etc. - yet still intriguing. Others are less notorious, but similarily fascinating. Wolff even lets a lowly ship rat and an ancient, mighty iceberg have their say. This kind of anthropomorphism usually comes off as cheesy at best, completely irritating at worst. Not so in Wolff's brilliant novel. Here, it works. So, does the poetic format, which manages to be both lyrical and engaging, while giving distinct voice to each of the novel's characters. Heavy with haunting irony, the verses are shivery, striking and utterly spellbinding.
Although the story of the great Titanic does not - cannot - change, Wolff makes it new again. Of all the books I've read about the greatest maritime disaster in recent memory, The Watch That Ends the Night is, by far and wide, the best. It's a must-read that should be getting a whole lot more attention. Don't miss it.
(Readalikes: Reminded me of other Titanic novels, like Dear America: Voyage on the Great Titanic by Ellen Emerson White; I Survived the Sinking of the Titanic by Lauren Tarshis, and Gordon Korman's Titanic trilogy [Unsinkable; Collision Course; S.O.S.])
If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG-13 for mild language, intense situations and graphic depictions of death/suffering
To the FTC, with love: I received a finished copy of The Watch That Ends the Night from the generous folks at Candlewick Press. Thank you!