Ghosts I have Been, by Richard Peck (first published 1977, 214 pages) is written in first person in the unique voice of fourteen-year-old Blossom. Her voice lends the book such a different tone than another book I read by Richard Peck, Voices After Midnight (my review here), and I liked it so much more I could hardly believe they were written by the same person.
Blossom Culp is the outspoken outcast of Bluff City, always getting into trouble. No one wants to cross her, especially now that she’s revealed that she can see the Unseen. Then Blossom herself is stunned, because her lie turns out to be truth. She actually does have second sight…and she is “on board” the sinking Titanic.
Ghosts I Have Been is actually the sequel to another book, The Ghost Belonged to Me, but I wasn’t confused at all though I hadn’t read the first. This book is set nearly a hundred years ago, and I enjoyed all the period details. I really love a story with a strong voice, and that is the main aspect I liked about this book. Even the supporting character, the eccentric elderly Miss Dabney has a great voice. I loved this exchange in which Miss Dabney is trying to teach Blossom English manners.
“Now, how do you take your tea?” she asked me. “Oh, any old way,” I replied, not knowing. “No, no,” she sighed. “That is not a proper reply. And this is proper English tea. …There is no tea like it in Bluff City, and you must know how you take it. If you are unsure, say, ‘Rather weak and just a little milk.’ If you have a sweet tooth as I expect you have, say, ‘One lump, if you please.’ If you have exotic tastes, and I rather think you might, you could say,’With lemon if you have it.’ Some people take their tea with nothing at all in it, but that is rather austere. Now I shall begin again. Miss Culp, how will you have your tea?” I swallowed hard and replied, “Three lumps and lemon if you have it. Please.”
I was disappointed by the lack of actual time travel to the Titanic. She seemed to be there only a few moments, and then only as a ghost who could not influence events. Certainly, the book did not teach me anything about the Titanic, unlike some other Titanic time travel books (my list here). In almost all books in which characters time travel, they keep it a secret from others when they return to their “normal” lives. In this book though, Blossom’s time travel is made very public. A bigger portion than I would have preferred of the end of the book is about her fame, and dealings with the press, post-travel. I felt the tension lagged here.