by Alma Katsu
eARC, 405 pages
Published March 10th, 2020 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons
From the acclaimed and award-winning author of The Hunger comes an eerie, psychological twist on one of the world’s most renowned tragedies, the sinking of the Titanic and the ill-fated sail of its sister ship, the Britannic.
Someone, or something, is haunting the ship. That is the only way to explain the series of misfortunes that have plagued the passengers of the Titanic from the moment they set sail. The Titanic’s passengers expected to enjoy an experience befitting the much-heralded ship’s maiden voyage, but instead, amid mysterious disappearances and sudden deaths, find themselves in an eerie, unsettling twilight zone. While some of the guests and crew shrug off strange occurrences, several–including maid Annie Hebbley, guest Mark Fletcher, and millionaires Madeleine Astor and Benjamin Guggenheim–are convinced there’s something more sinister going on. And then disaster strikes.
Years later, Annie, having survived that fateful night, has attempted to put her life back together by going to work as a nurse on the sixth sailing of the Britannic, newly refitted as a hospital ship to support British forces fighting World War I. When she happens across an unconscious Mark, now a soldier, she is at first thrilled and relieved to learn that he too survived the tragic night four years earlier. But soon his presence awakens deep-buried feelings and secrets, forcing her to reckon with the demons of her past–as they both discover that the terror may not yet be over.
Featuring an ensemble cast of characters and effortlessly combining the supernatural with the height of historical disaster, The Deep is an exploration of love and destiny, desire and innocence, and, above all, a quest to understand how our choices can lead us inexorably toward our doom.
I received an eARC of this book from Edelweiss Plus in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my review in any way.
Trigger warning: self-harm, cheating, death
“The living are often anchors for the dead. Sometimes, when our feelings for the dead are very, very strong, it keeps them tied to us. It prevents them from moving on to the next world.”
The Deep and I had a rocky start: after the exciting reads in February, filled with witches and cunning, ambitious characters, reading this book felt like getting into a lull that could turn into a reading slump.
We started the story with our main character, Annie, in an asylum after the traumatic events in the Titanic. She received an offer from her friend (and real-life Titanic survivor) Violet Jessop to serve as a nurse in Titanic’s sister ship, HMS Britannic. The story then progressed in dual timeline, now (1916, on the Britannic) and then (1912, on the Titanic).
The atmosphere was pretty dreary, with suffocating asylum and being stuck in the ocean, not to mention the whole eerie stuffs happening. And right from the start, this book builds the atmosphere really well. As Annie was in an asylum, we have this impression that she’s an unreliable narrator. She has no clear memory prior to the Titanic and she immediately latched and got obsessed with one of the passengers- which further adds the confusion on who we can trust.
The story centered around three characters: Annie, Mark and Caroline Fletcher. Annie felt inexplicably drawn to the Fletchers from the moment they met, and proceed to become obsessed with Mark. We also have a cast of secondary characters, all of them real-life passengers of Titanic. My favorite are Madelaine Astor, Dai and Leslie, Stead, and Lady Duff-Gordon. I wish we got more of them because they’re so much more interesting. I got teary eyed at Stead’s final moment, as with Leslie’s. As both Dai and Leslie died in the real event, I wonder how Dai died and I kinda wish they spent their final moments together.
What I get from this book is how central desire is as a theme. The past desires for love by certain characters triggered a whole chain reaction that still echoes through the Titanic and Britannic voyage. In a way, I feel bad for Caroline and Lillian, but not for Mark. I couldn’t say too much, but his inability to choose and sacrifice himself caused all of this. Desire for a better life, for a second chance, and for a better love are also portrayed by the secondary characters in a really good way that not only highlights the theme, but also fleshed out the secondary cast even more.
While we had a rough start, by the 50% mark I found myself immersed in this book. With it’s eerie, dark atmosphere, close confinement setting with nowhere to run if things goes awry, an unreliable narrator and a cast of well-developed secondary characters, I got really immersed with the story and can’t wait to see how the story will unfold. It was still a bit too slow-paced for my taste, but it was a story I really enjoyed nonetheless!
“Never doubt that I chose you.”