Flashbook Friday

Flashbook Friday: Titanic: The Long Night

Pre-Reread Thoughts

Titanic: The Long Night

The year is 1998. A story about a rich teenaged girl on the Titanic falling for an artist returning to America from a year abroad in Paris grabs my heart.

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No, I’m NOT talking about James Cameron’s blockbuster movie Titanic, although the same could be said for the movie. I’m talking about Diane Hoh’s novel, Titanic: The Long Night. Cheap novel riding the coattails of a blockbuster film? Absolutely it is. Compelling story? I sure thought so.

Elizabeth Farr, a wealthy young socialite, is sailing home with her parents on the maiden voyage of the Titanic when she sees a third class passenger wandering around the first class area looking lost, so she decides to help him by directing him back to third class quarters. She feels proud of herself for being helpful and independent, especially since her parents want to marry her off to some boring rich guy when all Elizabeth wants to do is go to Vassar.

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Later that night Elizabeth is embarrassed to see the third class passenger at her dinner table and finds out he’s really Max Whittaker, son of one of her father’s friends. She’s bratty towards him but they strike up a friendship that blossoms into a flirtation threatened by a large iceberg with no regards for young love. The book also follows two Irish brothers and their friend Katie in third class, but their story line never appealed to me as much as Elizabeth and Max’s romance, which was almost identical to Jack and Rose’s story.

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I absolutely LOVED this story, especially since I was the only kid in my grade who hadn’t been allowed to see Titanic because of the sex and nudity, and I was really bitter about missing out on the greatest pop culture phenomenon in the 6th grade. I read this book repeatedly while listening to the Titanic soundtrack (yes I bought the soundtrack without seeing the movie*), crying at the end when characters are lost to the icy sea. Probably one of my most Reread books.

*The fact I was stunned that the soundtrack was orchestral music and not a compilation of Disney-style show tunes is a testament to my parents’ judgment that I wasn’t mature enough to see Titanic.

Childhood Rating: 5 out of 5 icebergs

Post-Reread Thoughts

It doesn’t matter that this is a cheap knockoff of Titanic for preteens; I will ALWAYS love this book. Despite the cheesy nature of the book, the writing is well done and suspenseful, and even though I know what’s going to happen at the end my heart still palpitates when the survivors search for their loved ones on the Carpathia. I still love the hostile flirtation between Elizabeth and Max, who admire each other but don’t want to admit their feelings because they assume they should dislike each other. Max forsakes his father’s money for authenticity as an artist and Elizabeth forsakes her parents’ plans for her marriage because she wants to get an education and be a journalist. When they meet, they first think the other is another spoiled rich kid like all the spoiled rich kids they grew up with but gradually realize they’re more alike than they originally thought.

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The growth of their relationship is earnest and cute. They’re a couple you root for.

As an adult, I have a greater appreciation for the Irish third class story since I’m no longer in a hormonal Leomania rage (at least that’s what I keep telling myself). Katie Hanrahan is traveling with the Kelleher brothers: mature and mellow Brian, and lighthearted and lively Paddy. Katie is going to move in with an aunt and uncle in Brooklyn until she makes her fortune as a singer on Broadway, Brian plans to work on a dairy farm in Wisconsin, and Paddy aspires to be a writer. Brian, the eldest, feels responsible for the younger two and Katie looks up to him for his strong spirit. She’s always thought of Paddy as flighty, but amusing. Katie and her roommate Eileen, who’s escorting two orphans to America, gush over the grandeur of the ship, where even the third class quarters are finer than anything they’ve seen before. The brothers’ room is on the opposite end of the ship, but the women and men congregate in the public third class areas where Katie begins to see a different side to Paddy, who pines for Katie while assuming she loves Brian.

The stage is set for emotional drama and the tugging of heartstrings, and let me tell you your heartstrings will get quite a workout. I loved how Hoh described the different areas on the Titanic and the social norms that ruled the Edwardian era. She obviously researched how passengers on the Titanic spent their days in the spaces allotted to them. She includes key components of the ship’s doomed voyage, including its near crash with the New York during the departure from Southampton. Attention to historical detail makes the experience of reading historical fiction more immersive and intriguing.

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The characters each have a unique voice and personality that endears them to you. You don’t want to see any of them come to harm, even Elizabeth’s society-obsessed parents. Of course, it’s a book about the Titanic so there are a few casualties. This book has the perfect combination of family drama, romance, suspense, history, and tragedy. If you were a Titanic superfan in the 90s, you’ll be a superfan of this book too.

Adulthood Rating: 5 out of 5 doomed ocean liners

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