Wednesday 21 March 2012

81. Distant Waves by Suzanne Weyn

Distant Waves by Suzanne Weyn
Published March 2012 Scholastic

From the publisher:

Daughters of a famed clairvoyant, the five Taylor sisters have moved to turn-of-the-twentieth-century Spirit Vale, where their mother makes a living talking to the dead. The future, however, is something even she cannot see clearly. The sisters are not meant to stay in Spirit Vale for long. All seem poised to move in different directions science, society, fame, even the spirit world but all of their destinies converge on board the Titanic. A transatlantic voyage that promises great wonders soon turns into a fight for survival that not everyone will win... or can they?

Yes, another Titanic book.  This one uses the Titanic as a back drop to the story, the majority of the story takes place between 1898 and 1914.  In the mid 1800s the Spiritualist movement was huge in the USA.  In fact around the time of the American civil war 10% of the population of the US claimed to be Spiritualists.  It was the 'mediums' (those who claim they can communicate with the dead) who were instrumental in the growth of the movement, and this book focuses on a family whose livelihood has been the life of one such clairvoyant family.

I found this book fascinating because it opened my eyes to an amazing time in history.  The story, while fictional, includes many real characters from history, such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Ehrich Weiss (Harry Houdini), Benjamin Guggenheim and the most fascinating Nikola Tesla.  Tesla was an amazing scientist/inventor with extremely radical thinking for his time, he is said to be the greatest scientific genius of the last century.  If his name doesn't ring a bell, you may remember that his character was also features in the movie The Prestige.  He is a key character in the novel and his most remarkable invention plays a significant role in the climax of the book.

So, as much as this is a book about the Titanic, it is a glimpse into this moment in time where people were starting to question what they believed.  This idea of changing beliefs is also talked about in the form of racism, when Mimi the oldest daughter discovers that her whole life has been a lie, and she is not in fact Maude's daughter at all.

Now here is where I will share the most amazing fact I learnt while reading this book...In 1898 a man called Morgan Robertson wrote a book called Futility, it was a story about a ship called the Titan, that was deemed to be unsinkable, sank on a voyage in April after hitting an iceberg. Nearly all died, partly due to the insufficient number of lifeboats present!  Published 14c years before the Titanic sank.  I find that quite amazing, and I am ore amazed that I had never heard of it until now.  For those of you interested, I believe you can still get copies of this book, it was reprinted under the title. The Wreck of the Titan

Who will like this book: Girls age 11+
Read it if you like: Tragic romance, with a the mystery of the paranormal, and a hint of science thrown in for good measure

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