Title: THE DEEP
Author: Alma Katsu
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Read: August 2020
Expected publication: out now
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟
Someone, or something, is haunting
This is the only way to explain the series of misfortunes that have plagued the passengers of the ship from the moment they set sail: mysterious disappearances, sudden deaths. Now suspended in an eerie, unsettling twilight zone during the four days of the liner's illustrious maiden voyage, a number of the passengers - including millionaires Madeleine Astor and Benjamin Guggenheim, the maid Annie Hebbley and Mark Fletcher - are convinced that something sinister is going on . . . And then, as the world knows, disaster strikes.
Years later and the world is at war. And a survivor of that fateful night, Annie, is working as a nurse on the sixth voyage of the Titanic's sister ship, the Britannic, now refitted as a hospital ship. Plagued by the demons of her doomed first and near fatal journey across the Atlantic, Annie comes across an unconscious soldier she recognises while doing her rounds. It is the young man Mark. And she is convinced that he did not - could not - have survived the sinking of the Titanic . . .
What attracted me to this book:
Show me a person who isn’t fascinated by the history of the ill fated Titanic and its passengers – I certainly am, and the promise of a ghost story on the grand ship was just too tempting to resist!
It is not all that farfetched to imagine that some would blame an evil deity or spirit for the great ship’s demise, seeing how all three sister ships of the White StarLine’s fleet of steamships succumbed to tragedy. And even though Annie, our main protagonist, was an entirely fictional character, Katsu wove several true historical figures into her story to lend it substance – I enjoyed reading up on some of them after finishing the book, and they provided a fascinating backstory. Especially intriguing to me was Violet Jessop, the true survivor of all three White Star Line maritime disasters. A stewardess on the RMS Olympic and the RMS Titanic, she also survived the torpedoing of the last sister, the HMHS Britannic. To be honest, I thought that Violet, who featured only peripherally, would have made a much better narrator than the somewhat insipid Annie, but I can see that this would have created inaccuracies that could not have been easily excused by writing fiction. My biggest disappointment, however, was that I bonded with many of the narrators who feature as passengers of the ill-fated Titanic, but never learned of their final fate.
If I had to put my finger of why I experienced an overall lingering feeling of discontent I would say that the book suffered from having too much packed into the one story. Two timelines from Annie’s POV, several POVs from various passengers on the Titanic, and a final rather fantastical supernatural element towards the end that felt forced and il-fitted to the overall story. Had the book stuck with the Titanic setting and its characters, it would have worked much better for me, especially as I never really connected to Annie but found some of the more peripheral characters (such as the two boxers) much more engaging.
The supernatural element, which is always a difficult theme to balance, was slightly underdone in the first part of the story, where the vast bulk of the Titanic could have provided more setting for unsettling encounters and an underlying feeling of menace and dread. It ramped up in the second timeline, but seemed ill-matched to the rest of the story and seemed unbelievable and forced to me. To be honest, the last quarter of the book barely managed to hold my interest, featuring – in my opinion - the two least interesting characters whose fate I was barely invested in.
To sum it all up into one coherent paragraph, THE DEEP was the type of dual narrative where one timeline definitely overshadowed the other one, to the detriment of my overall enjoyment. Whilst I loved the chapters involving the voyage of the ill-fated Titanic, I felt myself skimming through large parts of the second timeline. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the historical details included in the book, and probably learned much about the events leading up to the sinking of the great ship by reading up on many of the people Katsu included in her story. It’s never easy to mix fact with fiction, and I feel that the author did a great job here by bringing some of these historical figures to life for us. I am very keen now to read her earlier book THE HUNGER, which also blends historical fiction with a ghostly element.
Thank you to Edelweiss and G.P. Putnam’s Sons for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.