Once upon a time, I was halfway through a review on The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.
Then, Covid-19 hit. Now, I honestly can’t remember what day of the week it is – let alone a book I was talking about on March 3rd of this year.
Even though I have a lot of reviews in the “queue” to write & post, I skipped my review of The Light In The Darkness: A Titanic Novel, Book One (Parts I-III) to the “front of the line.” Mainly because I love Carla Robinson – she’s a fabulous blogger & author of You Know You Want It, a book I read, cried over, reviewed, & loved.
Another reason it got bumped is that I received an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy). I received the book a bit before its release date – it appeared on April 10th, 2020, the 108th anniversary of the date the RMS Titanic set sail.
When I get such an honor, I bump ya. Simple as that! (Mr. Twain – feel free to send me stuff to get the rest of your book reviewed. 😉)
Thankfully, she told me she didn’t mind if it wasn’t reviewed on its release date (which I thought I could do). Unfortunately, the pandemic has seriously impacted my perception of time & my ability to consume content. It took more than a month to read – not because it was bad/boring, mind you.
I’m sure you can all empathize.
ANYWAY. You all rock – stay strong, stay sane, leave me a comment on your perceptions of time in Covid days!
SPOILER-FREE… FOR NOW [Insert dramatic music here.]
First, this was a massive undertaking for a new author. She published two books, of length, in the same week. I was impressed (& totally jealous) to say the least. Even though I have loads of good stuff to say about this book, I did see some issues.
Now, I don’t normally go for historical fiction, so I’m not sure how it’s “supposed” to be. Still, I think Robinson weaved “historical” with “fictional” elements so seamlessly that I couldn’t tell the difference.
I’ll admit – I Googled a couple of facts, thinking, “That can’t possibly be true,” only to be put in my place. I enjoyed being corrected & the fact that I couldn’t tell what was fiction.
I had no issues with Robinson’s facts, really. My concerns are more about moments that took me out of the story. Sometimes, reading a description of a state room or fine dining location, I felt like I was listening to an auctioneer listing off upcoming lots.
I would have liked to have more visceral connections – like metaphors or imagery related to what the characters tasted or felt – rather hearing the names of fine chairs (Louis XIII or something… I’m awful with names!).
An example where I think Carla hit the nail on the head for me was when she described the carpet swallowing up one of the Gresham daughters’ shoes. That’s it. Simple as that & all The characters might care that there’s a fancy chair (& remember its name), but the average reader doesn’t.
Speaking of the Gresham daughters, The Light In The Darkness: A Titanic Novel, Book One (Parts I-III) introduces us to these 3 women – Ladies Eliana, Georgiana, & Cecilia (yes, I had to look them up & I’m still not sure I got them right… I told you, I’m awful with names!). These are the primary characters, as far as I can tell.
I did find it hard to differentiate their voices in the early chapters. I really think, especially in the earlier chapters, they were too similar. They did gather their own personalities, but I think it could be more consistent.
Also, despite some glaring failings in some of her characters, Carla manages to capture their humanity & humility. I think that’s SO impressive.
Carla identifies the chapters with its respective number, the date the events take place on, followed by a name. The name heading indicates which character will be the primary focus for that section (under a 3rd person, omniscient narrator, I believe?).
But some chapters focus on the same character, making me question the need for a chapter break. For example: Chapters Thirty-Five & Thirty-Six are both set on Thursday, April 11th, 1912, & readers follow Eliana’s activities. If there was a reason to break up these sections (& others like them), I’m not sure what it was. It confused me when I came across these chapter issues, which pulled me out of my imaginings.
Those instances were, thankfully, few & far between. I really enjoyed the multiple points of view. I think they showed a broad range of the different classes, nationalities, & experiences on the ship.
Where I felt the most connection, honestly, was with the “steerage” characters. Maybe it was because I could imagine what they were seeing, tasting, or seeing? But, they were varied, wonderful, & real to me. I would love to see more of that in the richy-rich types.
At the end of Book One… well, everybody is fine. (I did say there were no spoilers in this review!)
3 out of 5 stars! I hate to sound so harsh towards a friend, but I’ve decided to treat all reviews as I would a traditionally published work. Hence why I refer to the author as “Robinson” (which feels really weird).
Book One is a bit too long, but I see the strong foundation of a great world-building talent. I think future works will blow us out of the water.
I’ll write a review for The Light In The Darkness: A Titanic Novel, Book Two (Parts IV-V) when I’m done reading it. It might be tomorrow, it might be 2054; I’m starting to question the concept of time lately.