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My Heart Will Go On: Stories from the RMS Titanic, Truth and Fiction

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In the late hours of April 14th, 1912 and the early morning hours of April 15th, about 85 years before a dying Leo DiCaprio urged a freezing Kate Winslet to live, the RMS Titanic struck an iceberg and sunk into the icy waters of the North Atlantic. In a matter of hours this “unsinkable” ship was on the bottom of the ocean and only 712 out of its 2,208 passengers would survive.  Since the news of the sinking first got out up to the present day, on the100th anniversary of the tragedy, there have been hundreds of stories about those who died, those who survived and what really happened on board that ship — real and imagined. What trick of fate brought them to the Titanic, what did they experience aboard the luxury liner and what secrets and treasures did they take to their watery grave?

Amanda/Miranda by Richard Peck (1980)

Originally written in 1980 and rereleased for the anniversary, this Downton Abbey-esque tale opens in a manor house on the Isle of Wight (off the coast of England) in 1911. Mary has just started as a maid to the spoiled daughter of the house, Amanda. As they resemble each other, Amanda re-christens Mary as Miranda and slowly lures her into her manipulative web. Amanda is being courted by a young, rich American named Gregory but she is carrying on an illicit love affair with the handsome chauffer John Thorne. The book is filled with plenty of romance, betrayal and mistaken identity and this is all before Amanda and Miranda even board the Titanic!  While the book is written in a melodramatic style, it is highly entertaining and the Titanic scenes are especially intense.

Fateful by Claudia Gray (2012) 

On the night of April 9th, 1912, maid Tess Davies is wandering the alleyways of Southhampton running errands for her young mistress Lady Irene, who is about to sail to America. Lost in the fog, she encouters a man with a villainous laugh and evil intent, a mysterious young man who tries to help her and a large, menacing wild dog or is it a wolf? Little does she know that she will again encounter all three aboard the Titanic. She will have to use all her smarts and courage to outwit a dark destiny, survive a dangerous, new love and oh, yeah, there is that little matter of a sinking ship! Gray, known for the supernatural Evernight series, delivers again with this fun, supernatural take on the Titantic disaster. 

The Watch that Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic by Allan Wolf (2011)

We could still make out Titanic's brightly lit outline / as the stern rose up and the lights blinked out / Then it was just a dark silhouette where stars should have been. / And then it was gone altogether. / Then the moans. There was no one voice that stood out. / From that distance it was just one horrific roar (p.326) Margaret Brown. Told in free verse, this story of the Titanic is recreated and observed in the first person voices of American millionaire John Jacob Astor, a young Lebanese immigrant in third class, socialite Margaret (Molly) Brown, Captain Smith, and others including the iceberg itself. The author does a great job recreating the disaster in poetic form, some of the entries are incredibly heartbreaking. Also included: the SOS cables that were sent to nearby ships, mini-biographies of some passengers and crew, Titanic statistics and a great bibliography. 

Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson (2012)

In this superb, non-fiction book we get an almost exhaustive account of the disaster from the building of the ship to the arrival of survivors in New York and the eventual discovery of the Titanic in 1985. The author gets the majority of her information from first hand accounts of the survivors. The book's real treasure is the abundance of photographs, drawings and documents that are included. The pictures of the survivors taken on board the Carpathia (the ship that rescued them) are hard to look at as you imagine what they had just witnessed hours and days before. The author also includes a great appendix of information: biographies, timeline, statistics, commission reports, bibliography and several indexes. For young Titanic geeks, this is a great book to have.

Best of the Rest:

Fiction: In SOS Titanic (e-book only), 15 yr old Irishman Barry O'Neill finds his life in danger aboard the doomed ship. A young fashionista puts on a vintage gown and finds herself on board the Titanic as the dress's original owner in Time Traveling Fashionista. Four psychic sisters travel on the Titanic bound for New York in Distant Waves. A seamstress finds herself aboard the Titanic as the maid for a renowned fashion designer in The Dressmaker. In Voyage on the Great Titanic: The Diary of Margaret Ann Brady, a 13 yr old orphan becomes the companion of a wealthy American woman and sets sail on the Titanic. In the Unsinkable series we get the stories of four young passengers of various ages and classes and their experiences aboard the ship. 

Non-Fiction: Beautiful drawings and layout dominate Iceberg Right Ahead. Photos and mementos of the tragedy abound in Last Days of the Titanic. Robert Ballard discovered the Titanic at the bottom of the Atlantic in 1985, follow his search in Exploring the Titanic, his follow-ups Return to Titanic and Titanic: The Last Great Images. Great illustrations and an interactive layout distinguish The Kids' Guide to Titanic. Get up-close and personal with the lives of Titanic's first class passengers in Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage. Originally published in 1912, Wreck and Sinking of the Titanic, gives a look at the disaster from the perspective of those who had only just survived it.  Lost Voices from the Titantic: The Definitive Oral History gives complete account from the building of the ship, the voyage, the sinking and its aftermath. A non-fiction classic and the inspiration for the James Cameron film and countless other books is Walter Lord's 1932 account of the disaster A Night to Remember.

DVD: There is not a lot currently available on DVD but with many documentaries and specials airing spring 2012 on PBS, Discovery, NatGeo, ABC and HBO there should be more available in the summer and fall. For now, there is Titanic: Born in Belfast which examines the building and launch of the ship. Titanic Revealed takes a look at Robert Ballard's almost accidental discovery of Titanic in 1985. Ghosts of the Abyss goes back to the debris field and tries to discover Titanic's secrets and in Titanic's Final Moments we see a vivid recreation of how the supposed unsinkable ship broke apart. On the feature film side there is really only Kate and Leo's doomed cruise in the epic Titanic and the 1958 film version of Night to Remember.

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