I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Watch that Ends the Night by Allan Wolf
Published by Candlewick Press on 2011
Genres: Young Adult, Historical, United States, 20th Century, Action & Adventure, Survival Stories, Other, Transportation
Buy on Amazon
The voices in this recreation of the Titanic disaster span classes and stations from millionaire John Jacob Astor, hoping to bring home his pregnant teen bride with a minimum of media scandal to a beautiful Lebanese refugee, on her way to family in Florida and discovering the first stirrings of love.
There’s something about tragedy that is compelling. I mean, as humans many of us find it impossible to look away from trainwrecks. We are prone to rubbernecking. I’m not really sure why this is. There’s one tragedy above all others that grabs me every single time and that is the sinking of the Titanic. How much of it is influenced by the James Cameron film which was a surprisingly large part of my formative years, I don’t know. Regardless, I found myself very drawn to The Watch That Ends The Night: Voices From The Titanic by Allan Wolf not only because of how artistically rendered the cover is (truly, it’s eyecatching) but because I am fascinated like many others by the Titanic and the stories of the many human souls aboard.
The Watch That Ends The Night by Allan Wolf is a huge book – clocking in at 480 pages. It needs to be huge though — the book spans the point of view of 24 characters. Any shorter and I think we’d do these 24 characters a disservice. Wolf’s story starts pre-launch and ends a few days after the sinking. Then we are treated to a pretty extensive author’s note section and a ‘What Happened To The Characters/Where Are They Now’ which I really appreciated as The Watch That Ends The Night sparked a sort of curiousity in me. I realize this is a super short summary, but I think we all know what the fate of the Titanic is. Plus, I think that there are more important elements to discuss.
Allan Wolf absolutely excels at writing in verse. You should probably know going into The Watch That Ends The Night that it is written entirely in verse, except for the author’s note section. And you know, I thought I would whip through this like I normally do with verse books but that did not happen. Instead, I took the time to concentrate on each page, to study the layout, to imagine the characters and their feelings. I thought Wolf did a great job with word choice — each character’s point of view had word choice and phrasing consistent with a character of that class, I thought. Further, there are subplots to each character and rather than be confusing, I thought it was very artfully done.
Speaking of the characters, I had a few favorites. I loved reading about Jamila, this girl who was a refugee from Lebanon and her brother. Jamila has a small, budding romance with a boy who speaks another language. OH and she’s in charge of her brother as the ship officials would not let her father board (thank goodness). I also loved reading about Margaret Brown, or the Unsinkable Molly Brown — even though she’s never called that in the book. She just seemed so determined and acted stronger than the other ladies of her class. Finally, I thought that Jock, the musician and the mail sorter whose name escapes me provided interesting points of views that I haven’t really read before regarding the Titanic.
You guys, The Watch That Ends The Night depressed me. And this is not me saying oh it’s bad because it depressed me. Rather, I am kind of sensitive or soft-hearted and that’s okay. See, I was reading this and getting attached to the characters. THEN I started to get sad because I knew what would happen. I started to think about how when the ship sinks, some people won’t make it through. I thought about how sad it was that some families were going to be ripped apart because of that whole men stay on the boat thing. I just, I got really sad. Then, because these voices are based on real people, I got depressed because I was thinking about the real people aboard the ship and how upsetting that must have been, and how devastating for the family members who lived. But anyways, I just loved that Allan Wolf infused The Watch That Ends The Night with a real human touch, so that I could feel emotions while reading.
I think if you’re looking for a book that’s not the most commercial or maybe a read that’s going to be different from everything else on your TBR list to ring out December with, you should pick up The Watch That Ends The Night, it’s very well done stylistically. He really puts a human face on history and does it in such a superb fashion. Further, I want to read Wolf’s other book New Found Land after this. For a sensitive and intriguing, unique spin on the tragedy of the Titanic, definitely read this book. Chances are you won’t regret it.
Disclosure: Received for review at like BEA 2011 and I’m just finally getting to it. NO HATERS PLEASE! <3
Other reviews of The Watch That Ends The Night by Allan Wolf:
YA Librarian Tales – “Titanic aficionados, take note. This book is utterly phenomenal!”
Her Life With Books – “I was impressed by how Wolf uses language and style to capture these bigger, human themes.”