The Haunting of…the Titanic? Yes, please!
I loved this book. Even more, I knew I would love it before I read it. After The Hunger, Alma Katsu became one of my favorite authors and this next novel only cemented her placement on that list. Unlike anyone else, she combines two of my favorite genres, historical fiction and horror, into a tale of beauty and quiet terror.
We all know the story of the Titanic. Maybe not everyone realizes she also had a sister ship, the Britannic, which also sank in a horrible tragedy only a few years later. Throw a gothic ghost story in the mix and voila, another epic win from Alma Katsu!
Annie Hebbley is a troubled young woman, haunted by a past that’s been overshadowed by tragedy. We begin in an asylum, where Annie is set to be released. She was a stewardess on the Titanic, miraculously surviving. A free woman again, she’s given a second chance at life as a nurse on the HMHS Britannic. But the ghosts of her past won’t leave her in peace, and we learn why over the course of the novel.
I have to say, Annie’s character really struck a chord with me. She’s one of the few fictional characters in the story, but to me she felt as real as anyone. Maybe it’s because I was reminded of my beloved great-grandmother, an immigrant to the US and a nurse, a strong woman who survived multiple tragedies but never gave up. She was obsessed with the Titanic disaster since her youth. One of my few memories of her when I was a child, before her dementia overwhelmed her, was when she showed me the yellowed newspaper clippings she always kept after the Titanic sank in 1912. Maybe the horror of the event fascinated her, as only a few years prior she’d survived her own harrowing voyage from Europe to Ellis Island, probably scared to death as a young girl.
And that’s the allure of Alma Katsu’s novels, at least for me. We’ve made a cliche out of “Truth is stranger than fiction” because it often is. Real-life horror often is far more frightening than anything birthed by our imaginations. But when you combine the two, historical events and people with a fictional horror story, it’s even more chilling but entertaining as hell. I highly recommend this novel, and hope others enjoy it as much as I did!