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BOOK REVIEW: The Midnight Watch by David Dyer

Saturday, December 31, 2016



THE BLURB (From GoodReads):

As the Titanic and her passengers sank slowly into the Atlantic Ocean after striking an iceberg late in the evening of April 14, 1912, a nearby ship looked on. Second Officer Herbert Stone, in charge of the midnight watch on the SS Californian sitting idly a few miles north, saw the distress rockets that the Titanic fired. He alerted the captain, Stanley Lord, who was sleeping in the chartroom below, but Lord did not come to the bridge. Eight rockets were fired during the dark hours of the midnight watch, and eight rockets were ignored. 

The next morning, the Titanic was at the bottom of the sea and more than 1,500 people were dead. When they learned of the extent of the tragedy, Lord and Stone did everything they could to hide their role in the disaster, but pursued by newspapermen, lawyers, and political leaders in America and England, their terrible secret was eventually revealed. The Midnight Watch is a fictional telling of what may have occurred that night on the SS Californian, and the resulting desperation of Officer Stone and Captain Lord in the aftermath of their inaction.

Told not only from the perspective of the SS Californian crew, but also through the eyes of a family of third-class passengers who perished in the disaster, the narrative is drawn together by Steadman, a tenacious Boston journalist who does not rest until the truth is found. The Midnight Watch is a powerful and dramatic debut novel--the result of many years of research in Liverpool, London, New York, and Boston, and informed by the author's own experiences as a ship's officer and a lawyer.
 



MY THOUGHTS:


Like many people, I have always been interested in the story of the Titanic. But my interest never reached the obsessive proportions of David Dyer, who first wrote a story about it when he was in primary school and used to prop up two of the legs of his bed so that he slept at a tilt, as if he was on board a sinking ship. 


The Midnight Watch is the result of this lifelong fascination, and it illuminates the tragedy in an entirely new and original way. It is not so much the story of the ill-fated Titanic, but of the ship that watched her sink and did nothing to help.


The Titanic hit an iceberg late in the evening of April 14, 1912, and fired eight distress rockets into the starlit sky. Second Officer Herbert Stone, in charge of the midnight watch on the SS Californian sitting only a few miles north, saw the distress rockets and alerted the captain, Stanley Lord, who was asleep in the chartroom below. Lord did not come to the bridge, or give any orders to help the sinking ship, despite several more attempts to inform him of the signals. The next morning, the Titanic had sunk to the bottom of the sea and more than 1,500 people were dead. 


I knew nothing about the SS Californian, despite the many books I have read about the tragedy (and of course, watching the famous movie with Leonardo di Caprio and Kate Winslet countless times). It seems incomprehensible that anyone could have ignored those eight distress signals. However, by the end of David Dyer’s book I felt I understood how such a terrible thing could have happened. The Midnight Watch is powerful, compelling, and utterly illuminating – a must-read for anyone with even the slightest interest in the tragedy of the Titanic. 


Other books about the Titanic which I have read & enjoyed are The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Raynor and my daughter's favourite book, Kaspar, the King of Cats by Michael Morpurgo.

Have you read any great novels set on the Titanic? Let me know as I'd love to read them. 


PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT - I LOVE TO KNOW WHAT YOU THINK!




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