The Watch That Ends The Night: Voices from the Titanic
by Allan Wolf
Purchased from Barnes and Noble
[#7 in my 75 book challenge]
How much of a summary do you really need here? Look at the cover — it’s a book about the Titanic. It’s a verse novel with twenty-four voices telling their stories. First, second, and third class passengers, the captain, the lookouts and stokers, and even the rats and the iceberg are represented in these 480 pages. We all know how it ends (SPOILER: The ship sinks), which is what made this book great — I didn’t know who was going to live and who was going to die.
We’ve all heard, read, and seen lots of stuff about the Titanic. It fascinates us. As we enter the 100th anniversary of the ship’s sinking, lots of new media is being released to profit on that fascination. I’m already seeing it when I go to order books. However, this book won my heart because it showed me angles of the ship’s journey that I had never thought about before. Wolf REALLY did his research when writing the verse and it shows. I had never thought much about the collecting of the bodies, and each section was framed with verses from the undertaker as he collects the bodies from the sea to prepare them for burial. The voice of the iceberg also framed each section quite ominously, representing the inevitability of fate.
The best part, though, was the back matter. Wolf pulled his characters and voices from the real travelers on the Titanic, and he uses the back matter to give as much information as he could about each of these passengers lives (including their lives after the journey, if they lived). He also gives more detailed, objective information about what happened “that fateful night.” His opening to the back matter best describes why he wrote the novel and why it has such a powerful impact on the reader:
“… my aim in writing The Watch That Ends the Night was not to present history. My aim was to present humanity. The people represented in this book lived and breathed and loved. They were as real as you or me. They could have been any one of us.”
Final Grade: A This was a gorgeous and fascinating book. Though it is technically a YA novel, I don’t know how many of my students will really appreciate the complexity in the verse format — but many will enjoy the stories. There will definitely be a library copy ordered in the future (I think I already swapped out a JLG book for it). When the Titanic stuff blows up in the spring I won’t be able to keep any Titanic books on the shelf, including this one. My personal copy of the book was one that I bought, in hardcover, from the bookstore, and I’m glad I own it.
[Also, it really made me want to watch the 1997 movie again.]
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