The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic

Allan Wolf. Candlewick, $21.99 (472p) ISBN 978-0-7636-3703-3
Wolf (Zane's Trace) constructs a richly textured novel in verse that recreates the Titanic's ill-fated journey, predominantly through the voices of her passengers. The speakers include John Jacob Astor, ("the unsinkable”) Margaret Brown, Captain E.J. Smith, and little-known individuals whose stories Wolf draws from research and archival materials. A Lebanese refugee, traveling alone with her brother, finds first love; a tailor, accompanied by his two sons, anguishes over his broken marriage; and a gambler cons his way through the first-class passengers' pocketbooks. A ship rat speaks, as does the iceberg itself—a choice that could have become esoteric ("I am the ice. I have no need of wings./ I only need the hearts Titanic brings”)—but earns its place within a composite that includes colloquial speech, introspective interior monologues, and rhyming poetry. Throughout, sequences flash forward to an undertaker's handling of the bodies ("Bodies scattered for miles, in every direction./ Bodies as far as my indifferent eyes can see”), assuring that the ending is never in question. But Wolf's carefully crafted characters evolve as the voyage slides to its icy conclusion; readers may be surprised by the potency of the final impact. Ages 14–up. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 11/14/2011
Release date: 10/01/2011
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