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  • The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic
  • Elizabeth Bush
Wolf, Allan. The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic. Candlewick, 2011. [480p]. ISBN 978-0-7636-3703-3 $21.99 Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 7–10.

You’ve devoured the books, perused the exhibits, and wept over the movie, but your Titanic jones remains unsated? Wolf’s poetic recreation of the epic disaster is the next big thing, giving fictional voice to a score of real life passengers, an undertaker who helped retrieve bodies from the sea, and a pair of non-human participants in the catastrophe. Wolf allows readers to experience the tragedy from all decks, fairly portraying the viewpoints of Captain Smith and White Star Line honcho Bruce Ismay within the context of their time, and interweaving plausible stories among the lesser-known passengers and crew. The commentary of undertaker John Snow, which closes each chronologically sequential section (or, in nautical terms, a “watch”), is particularly chilling in its clinical objectivity as it steadily refocuses readers’ attention from personal stories to the inexorable conclusion. The voice of a ship’s rat, caught up in its single-minded pursuit of food, is an effective agent of irony, more poignant than some prescient remarks by doomed passengers. The anthropomorphized iceberg however, is an unnecessarily histrionic voice, imbued with both motive and omniscience out of keeping in a novel so carefully aligned with fact. Titanic enthusiasts will, no doubt, overlook or forgive those few lapses into cheesiness, and will certainly revel in the extensive end matter, comprising trivia about the ship itself, specific details about featured players in Wolf’s drama, lists of the lost and saved whose names appear anywhere in the text, and a bibliography of resources in multiple formats, with indications of where to begin for further reading.



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