I was initially put off Ghosts of the Titanic, Julie Lawson (2012, 168 pages) by an aspect of the storyline introduced in the first chapter: family unexpectedly inherits big old house. Maybe I was skeptical because I just read another book in which a family unexpectedly inherited a big old house (13 Hangmen). Such windfalls happen a lot in middle grade fiction, but in real life? There’s a whole lot of people for whom it would be handy to inherit a big, old house right about now but you don’t hear of this happening much. However, I stuck with the book and found myself enjoying the story, in spite of myself.
A summary from Amazon.com:
Just in time for the hundredth anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic on April 15, 1912, comes a haunting and suspenseful novel that weaves gripping fiction around fascinating historical fact. When twelve-year-old Kevin Messenger’s father inherits a house in Halifax, Canada, left to him by a complete stranger named Angus Seaton, Kevin decides to investigate. His puzzling discoveries lead to troubling dreams and a voice calling to him for help. A parallel narrative tells the dramatic story of Angus Seaton, who worked on one of the ships responsible for recovering bodies and personal effects after the Titanic sank. The two stories converge in a spine-tingling climax as Kevin is transported aboard the sinking Titanic to try to right the wrongs of the past.
Talk about a timely book. It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to read this book, so close to the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. My family and I recently went to a wonderful exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh. Like the main character in the book who goes to a Titanic Exhibition, we were each issued “boarding passes” as we entered the exhibit. Each ticket had the name of a real passenger on the Titanic. At the end of the display was a wall listing the names of all the dead. You could check to see if “you” lived or died. Except we forgot to check, so when we got home we found out our fates on an internet site. Titanic passenger lists are easy to find. The personalized ticket idea made history come alive for us. If you get a chance to go to a Titanic Exhibit this year, I would urge you to go.
There are many time travel books about the Titanic. In fact I just discovered the Return to Titanic Series of four books, all published last year, one of which I plan to review here next week. Ghosts does focus on the events aboard the ship that fateful day, but primarily on a young sailor who has to recover the bodies. The author included a Note in which she explains that Canadian ships were responsible for recovering the bodies, and over 150 victims were buried in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Because of a small mistake the young sailor in Ghosts makes, he is haunted by the ghost of a woman who drowned on the Titanic. The chapters of his story alternate with chapters about twelve-year-old Kevin who moves into the sailor’s house in 2012, long after the sailor has passed away. Kevin is also haunted by the ghost. Will he be able to conclude the sailor’s “unfinished business” and free himself of the ghost, or will she plague him forever?
I am not “into” ghosts per se, and I found the repetitious queries of the one in this book a bit annoying. Also, Kevin’s character was not 100% believable to me. But overall it was a good story and I loved learning more about about the sinking of the Titanic and the aftermath. For another viewpoint about the book see blogger Charlotte’s review here.