Spirit of the Titanic
1912. The Titanic is on her maiden voyage to New York. Travelling with her is the ghost of 15-year-old Sam Scott, who had fallen to his death while at work building the world’s largest and most famous ship.
We follow Sam around the ship and witness various small dramas. In the third class are the two runaway Murphy sisters, looking for a better life. Also sailing are Jim and Isobel and their children from Belfast. Jim is Catholic and Isobel Protestant, and they married against furious family opposition. They want a life free from religious bigotry. We eavesdrop on the telegraphist Jack Phillips in the Marconi room as he frantically tries to summon help for the sinking ship. We gawk with Sam at the splendours of the first class deck where no expense has been spared (apart from the small point of too few lifeboats).
This is a lively account of a famous and tragic voyage, and Nicola Pierce has obviously done her homework. Apart from Jim and Isobel’s family, all the other characters existed – even the narrator Sam, whose grave in Belfast provided the author’s inspiration for the book. The stories Sam relates: the orchestra playing as the ship went down, the selflessness of various passengers, the drunkenness of the chief baker, and so on, are well-documented and the author skilfully weaves them into the book.
However, it doesn’t really work as fiction. For a start, fiction demands that something be at stake. What can possibly be at stake for Sam when he’s already dead? The only fictional characters, Jim and Isobel, have just a few small scenes on stage, and their fates pale into insignificance when so many other real tragedies are imminent. Still, it is certainly an interesting read and I enjoyed it. For 10 plus.