Saturday, October 30, 2010

Suzanne Weyn. DISTANT WAVES: A NOVEL OF THE TITANIC

I was really struck by the beauty of this cover. So I jumped right in without reading the book jacket or anything. I was blown away. It's a magical book!

It begins in 1898 in New York City. After witnessing their mom, Maude Taylor, contact the dead in a seance, the five Taylor sisters encounter an earthquake in the middle of New York City. Actually, what feels like an earthquake turns out to be a science experiment gone awry by the renowned scientist Nikola Tesla. The girls and their mother meet Tesla when he runs outside to save them from the "earthquake." They follow him upstairs to watch him crush his invention to stop the rumble of the city. After an interesting conversation with Tesla, the chance encounter becomes a turning point for their family. Since her husband died a year before, Maude had been struggling to make ends meet, so she decides to move her family to upstate New York to a town known for spiritualists and mediums called Spirit Vale. After a series of fortunate events, she's able to set up shop there to make a living.

Most of the novel occurs before the sailing of the Titanic. This is what makes it such an amazing novel. All of the events that lead up to it are what make the story so compelling. Even after seeing the blockbuster Titanic movie and reading several books about it, I was still entranced by this completely fresh telling of the events. The various historical characters intermingling with the fictional family made it a fascinating read.

The author did a stellar job of  weaving together so many cool aspects of this time period. There was a spiritual movement where many people took psychics and mediums seriously, while other were continually trying to prove them to be fakes. Some of the fascinating people we encounter are Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Harry Houdini, John Jacob Astor, Benjamin Guggenheim, WT Stead and the aforementioned Nikola Tesla. The climax of the sinking of the Titanic made for an incredible amount of suspense.

I also loved the Author's Note chapter at the end that explained what was real and what was fiction in the book. I'm usually compelled to do a bunch of research at the conclusion of a historical fiction book, but this was way better, and saved me a lot of Googling at midnight after finishing the book!
I loved this book immensely and now want to read the author's other books.

I can't recommend this book enough! It's fascinating and and the characters are wonderful!

Click here for the author's site.
Check out this cool book trailer: