The Deep by Alma Katsu

Posted On 9 March 2020

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TheDeepWell, The Deep is a mixed bag of a book for me. On the one hand I had the lure of a story about the Titanic (which never fails to hook me), the promise of a Twilight zone style story and the gorgeous and evocative writing of Alma Katsu.  On the other hand, this isn’t quite the ghostly or quietly creepy tale of horror that I was expecting.  The thing is, I think I gave myself such high expectations with this book, in my own mind I already knew what I wanted this to be and so it’s no fault of the author if she can’t reproduce on the page what I’ve got swimming around in my head.  The short version, is this is a very well written and interesting reimagining of the short voyage of the Titanic.  It’s a little more on the side of historical fiction although there are some supernatural elements, but they’re not overpowering and the sort of thing that could be explained away as hysteria or wild imagination.

What I really liked about this was the writing and the way those few days aboard the Titanic are so evocatively brought to life here.  We spend time with a number of passengers and most of them have something going on, little secrets, secret fears or just basic insecurities that do draw you in quite well.  This is also set in an era where superstition was a thing of intrigue.  Seances and tarot cards, curses and palm reading were quite the rage with even the well heeled enjoying a good scare or a brush with the occult.

The Deep is a richly detailed, character led story.  The main character is Annie Hebbley, a stewardess on board the Titanic responsible for a number of the more well to do passengers.  Annie develops something of a fixation on an attractive young man named Mark Fletcher.  Mark is recently married and with a young baby, he’s not quite from the high echelons of society, unlike his wife, and frequently feels a little out of his depth and this vulnerability does lead him to befriend Annie and use her as a sounding board for some of his grumbles.  Mark’s wife Caroline also has secrets and fearing her husband is unhappy with his choices finds herself more often than not arguing with him over trivial matters.

These marital struggles are mirrored in some of the other passengers relationships and with the rising tensions nerves are becoming frayed.  Things on board are going missing and one of the young helping hands dies mysteriously causing much distress and scare mongering.

This main thread is counterbalanced by a story set four years ahead that plays out on the Titanic’s sister ship, the Britannic.  The Britannic was used as a hospital during WW1 although ultimately it suffered a similar fate to it’s sister.  As the ship sets sail we once again meet Annie who is serving as a nurse and she encounters another Titanic survivor who she didn’t expect to see again.

I never miss an opportunity to wax lyrical about character driven books.  They are my catnip.  That being said I think that in this particular instance the character led nature of The Deep might be the reason this book suffered a little bit for me.  I’ve struggled to put my finger on why that is and I think it boils down to the nature of this particular disaster.  The characters are all really well fleshed out and there’s no shortage of intrigue but at the end of the day I found it difficult to become invested in any of them because at the back of my mind I was very aware that the ship’s sinking was imminent.  I’m not sure whether it was a combination of impatience on my part and rushing headlong through the story to get to the actual crux of what happened or simply that I didn’t want to really become too attached to anyone because they might soon be resting in a watery grave.  Whatever it was, the imminent disaster itself took a long time to find page time and I couldn’t help feeling that I would have liked a much bigger mystery or sense of something spooky behind the sinking.  I guess that in a nutshell the supernatural elements felt a little too flimsy or not quite what I was anticipating.

Overall, I enjoyed this read and so I don’t want to come across as too negative.  The writing is very good and Alma Katsu continues to be as impressive as ever.  I think my own expectations have a lot to answer for on this occasion.  I had something totally different in mind and so couldn’t help feeling a little deflated.  If you’re looking for  an intriguing, fictional retelling of the last few days of some of the passengers aboard the Titanic then this could be for you.  There is a little of the supernatural involved here but I think it’s not overpowering in fact it’s more of the nature that you could explain away or put down to other causes.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

Rating 3* out of 5




Can’t Wait Wednesday : The Deep by Alma Katsu

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : The Deep by Alma Katsu.  I am so excited for this book – this is an author who has never let me down so I’m bouncing up and down with glee to see this.  Take a look and see why:

TheDeep.jpgSomeone, or something, is haunting the Titanic.

This is the only way to explain the series of misfortunes that have plagued the passengers of the ship from the moment they set sail: mysterious disappearances, sudden deaths. Now suspended in an eerie, unsettling twilight zone during the four days of the liner’s illustrious maiden voyage, a number of the passengers – including millionaires Madeleine Astor and Benjamin Guggenheim, the maid Annie Hebbley and Mark Fletcher – are convinced that something sinister is going on . . . And then, as the world knows, disaster strikes.

Years later and the world is at war. And a survivor of that fateful night, Annie, is working as a nurse on the sixth voyage of the Titanic’s sister ship, the Britannic, now refitted as a hospital ship. Plagued by the demons of her doomed first and near fatal journey across the Atlantic, Annie comes across an unconscious soldier she recognises while doing her rounds. It is the young man Mark. And she is convinced that he did not – could not – have survived the sinking of the Titanic . . .
Brilliantly combining fact and fiction, the historical and the horrific, The Deep reveals a chilling truth in an unputdownable narrative full of unnerving moments and with a growing, inexorable sense of foreboding.

Due for publication: March 2020