Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Interrupted Dreams by Jen Bielack

Book Blurb

An entirely new look at the Titanic tragedy of 1912. A journey through the days before, during and after Titanic’s maiden voyage, it is a heartfelt window into the lives of those suddenly faced with their own mortality. The story has haunted us for one hundred years, a tragedy from the last century of the previous millennium. This new historical novel transports you back to a bygone era and catapults you into the middle of the lives of a dozen people who lived or died because of a ship called Titanic. Fran├žoise is a spunky young French woman who meets the mysterious Malik in a Paris park. Together, they decide to find jobs on a Southampton steamer, but both are keeping damaging secrets from each other. The fatal accident interrupts their lives and perpetuates an impasse. Each moment from impact until the last lifeboat is launched is recounted, through the thoughts, words, and actions of crew and passengers. You will experience the gamut of emotions they felt, from exhilaration to despair, and learn the lesson they learned: the path to survival is strewn with heartbreaking loss. Only renewed faith, joined by undaunted compassion, can lead you back to your dreams.


The book opens with Malik and Khalinda, who are on their way to their home village but never actually get there as Khalinda dies - the circumstances of her death are a bit foggy, but then twelve years later, in 1912, Malik is with Francoise, a talented cook. Running parallel to their story is a gentle account of Jack Astor and his pregnant teenage bride, Madeleine, on their way home from Europe, and Captain John Smith, who is interviewed by a particularly obnoxious journalist as he about to take command of the Titanic.

At this stage I wasn't sure if this was an historical fiction novel, or a documentary with a fictional slant, and no one story seems to dominate, except maybe that of Malik and Francoise. I gathered the author was trying to illustrate that this tragedy wasn’t simply the story of a doomed ship, but over two thousand stories; of many lives impacted in different ways on that night in April 1912, some of whom are given a spotlight of their own. 

The background has been meticulously researched through documented accounts of the events and lives involved, which were fascinating, especially the Epilogue which recounted what happened to the survivors after they were rescued - an aspect often ignored with the re-telling in other accounts of the loss of the pride of the White Star Line.
However I found that one thread jumped to the next with confusing frequency; often after only a few pages and with no transition, so I didn’t get to know the characters well enough before I was thrust into a new scenario, or the continuation of a previous one.

French phrases, and in places whole sentences, were repeated in English in brackets, which I found distracting - and pointless. There is a lot of passive voice, head-hopping and telling as opposed to showing, and in places the author put a secondary PoV into brackets - she’s very fond of brackets - which was not only odd, but made the narrative choppy and difficult to follow. I felt the novel could have benefited from a professional edit as these problems would have been weeded out. 

The reviews of this novel on Amazon are consistently good, and did not mention the difficulties I experienced, so maybe I missed something and allowed the confusing format to overwhelm the deeper meaning. For those readers interested in delving further into the characters involved in the tragedy of The Titanic disaster, this is worth a read.

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