Friday, May 9, 2014

Unspeakable by Caroline Pignat

Unspeakable by Caroline Pignat 
Release Date - May 6, 2014
Publisher Website - Penguin
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 288 pages
My Rating - 4/5
**received in exchange for an honest review from the publisher**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
On her first voyage as a stewardess aboard the Empress of Ireland, Ellie is drawn to the solitary fire stoker who stands by the ship’s rail late at night, often writing in a journal.

Jim. Ellie finds it hard to think of his name now. After their wonderful time in Quebec City, that awful night happened. The screams, the bodies, the frigid waters … she tries hard to tell herself that he survived, but it’s hard to believe when so many didn’t. So when Wyatt Steele, journalist at The New York Times asks her for her story, Ellie refuses. But when he shows her Jim’s journal, she jumps at the chance to be able to read it herself, to find some trace of the man she had fallen in love with, or perhaps a clue to what happened to him. There’s only one catch: she will have to tell her story to Steele and he’ll “pay” her by giving her the journal, one page at a time.
As a Canadian I was a little shocked to hear that this tragic event happened and that hardly any of us actually know about it. I certainly didn't until I had this book come on my radar. A harrowing story of a tragic event that is also infused with hope. It inspired me to want to know more about the real story behind this moving work of fiction.

The care in which Caroline wrote this novel is evident right from the beginning. She meticulously researched the events leading up to the sinking, as well as life on the ship itself. It was apparent that she wanted to not only write an enjoyable story, but wanted to be respectful of the tragedy that had happened. The story certainly pulls you in, and the characters quickly endear themselves to you.

The sinking, and the events surrounding it were painted in a horrific, unimaginable light. The scenes were gripping, and vivid. It was the aftermath that truly resonated with me however. The survivors, and the guilt they carried was a palpable thing throughout the novel. The guilt and memories eat at Ellie to the point that the events themselves are unspeakable to her. She becomes haunted by that night, and all that was lost.

Ellie's strength was an unexpected one. It wasn't a physical strength, but an inner one that carried her through everything. She finds the ability within herself to go on. She finds something worth striving for. She has her past come back to haunt her, and after all she's been through it might have been enough to defeat her, but she pushes through. It's this kind of strength that I think needs to be shown more. It's often forgotten, but is just as heroic as any physical feat.

Jim has a stormy past of his own. The reveal of that past, and how he became the haunted man he is today was beautifully done. It's one of my favourite parts of the novel, and ties everything together. While I won't spill how we learn his story, I will say that it feels like we get to know him along with Ellie. They had only stolen moments together, and as she learns about him, the reader does too.

The romance is going to, at first glance, draw comparisons to Titanic. It has similarities, but more differences once you fall into the story. Much of the novel is spent with Jim's fate being unknown. The diary Ellie clings to may be her last link to a man she opened her heart to. This tension drove the story and kept me turning the pages. Caroline gives us just enough to keep us hooked, and reveals things as they are needed.

As much as the romance is a large part of the story, Ellie is the focus. It's her the reader follows and learns to care about. It's her that we see learn things about herself she wasn't expecting. We get to see her turn the tragedy into a strength inside her. Her story fascinated me, and I am glad we had that as the primary focus.

A heartfelt read that showcases the crushing weight of survivor's guilt, and the beauty of hope. This novel is based on a real life event I knew nothing about, and it's story is every bit  has heartbreaking as the Titanic. Those who love romance, and a captivating story will want to devour this one.

1 comment:

  1. I wish more YA books were situated in Canadian history. I think it would help break the reputation our history is "boring"


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