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Unsinkable by Nicole Bradshaw
1.5 of 5 stars
15-year-old Corinne — who, along with her sister, and her father are the only black passengers aboard the Titanic — falls in love with the captain’s first-class nephew.
“You and Christopher are extreme opposites. You’re from two different worlds. We’re from the privileged world and you’re… well… you’re not.”
In historical fiction, there’s a fine line an author must walk between fact and ‘artistic license.’ In general, I tend to enjoy historical fiction that adds to the known facts of historical events but does not contradict that which is known to be true. Unfortunately, that was one major point in which this story fell apart for me.
A few of the important discrepancies that I noted:
- Though the real LaRoche family was, indeed, the only black family aboard the Titanic, that’s pretty much where the similarities with this book ends. In the book, the father takes his teenage daughters (ages 15 and 18), while their ill mother stays behind in France. The real-life family that set out on the Titanic (with the mother!) looked like this. The daughters were two and three years old, not teenagers looking to improve their social status by wooing upper-class whites.
- In the story, the LaRoche family was headed to their previous home in Canada aboard the Titanic. The real-life LaRoche family was headed to the father’s homeland in Haiti. Not to mention the fact that after stopping in New York, the Titanic was bound back to England, NOT to Canada.
- Some of the language used in the novel was much too modern for 1912. For instance, “Astrid had still been asleep-slash-passed out…” It wasn’t until the 1960s that the term “slash” was even used for the “/” symbol that we use to mean “either/or.” Even the term “black” as used to describe the characters’ race, wasn’t a term that was used until the 1950s-60s. The Laroche family would have undoubtedly been called Negroes, not Blacks.
- The capsizing of Molly Brown’s lifeboat. Again, I understand artistic license, but when you have a story like Molly Brown’s that is well-known, contradicting these historical facts simply looks like lazy writing.
- First officer Murdoch’s murder/suicide. This story of Titanic is one that was included in two films, even though the story began as a mere rumor and there is no credible evidence to believe it ever happened — in fact, the evidence points strongly against it.
Aside from historical discrepancies, I had difficulties with other aspects of the story as well:
- Titanic cliches that have been used in many novels and movies based on the disaster, including
- Cross-class romance — Though class definitely played a role in a passenger’s experience aboard the ship, I doubt there were nearly as many lower-class passengers being invited to the first-class dining hall as popular fiction would have us believe.
- Running all over searching for lost family members
- Rescue of small children
- Sloppy editing — when the main character just returned to her room from being with the love interest, and he immediately knocks on her door asking if she’d like to go on a walk with him, you wonder if there was perhaps supposed to be another scene in there somewhere. At one point, a character assumes the main character doesn’t know French, despite the fact that she stated earlier in that scene that she lived in France.
- The romance in this book was also not my cup of tea. The characters’ swiftness to jump into bed together after only knowing each other a few days bothered me, especially when you consider that the characters were only fifteen years old. They seemed to have an insta-love connection that had no real basis, and as soon as they determined to get married, they began to bicker about childish things. In the end, nothing seemed resolved.
Overall: I’m perhaps pickier than most when it comes to Titanic historical fiction, but this one scored very low for me.