Book Review: The Deep by Alma Katsu

The Deep by Alma Katsu is a fictionalized account of the final days of the ill-fated ships, the Titanic and her sister ship, the Brittanic. The protagonist is young Annie Hebbley, a Irish lass fleeing an overbearing father and a forbidden love affair with the village priest.

The story begins in 1916 when Annie, recovering from a head injury, is a patient at an asylum. She is contacted by an old friend, Violet, who encourages her to apply for a nurse’s position on the Brittanic which has now been outfitted as a floating hospital for servicemen injured in WWI.

We learn, at this time, that Annie has worked on a ship before – The Titanic.

The novel then jumps back to 1912 when Annie, a stewardess in first class, greets passengers boarding the Titanic for its maiden voyage to New York. Amongst them are the Fletchers (Mark, Caroline, and baby Ondine) and Annie finds herself strangely attracted to Mark and the baby.

We also meet several of the other passengers – millionaires, Jack and Maddie Astor, Benjamin Guggenheim, journalist, W.T. Stead, and boxers, Dai Bowen and Les Williams. Their stories are interwoven with that of Annie and the Fletchers. The horror in this novel is implied and, sometimes, seems out of reach. The passengers develop an obsession with the occult and there are suspicions by some that there is evil on board and someone, possibly Annie, may be possessed.

This is a sprawling story that switches back and forth from 1912 to 1916. I found some of the plotlines riveting, but others much less so. Annie’s story was at times confusing and I found that Ms. Katsu, while throwing out a lot of storyline threads, didn’t tie them up neatly at the end. The story rambles about, going from one passenger to another and, in some cases, never reaches a satisfying conclusion. On the plus side, the writing is quite good and the story gives the reader a sort of ‘slice of life’ of what it was like to sail on both ships.

If you like historical fiction, then this book might be right up your alley. I, however, would have preferred a little bit more emphasis on the spooky side of things and a bit more clarity as to the plot.