Sunday, 15 April 2012

Voyage on the Great Titanic - The Diary of Margaret Anne Brady, 1912 by Ellen Emerson White

As with the review of Destined by Allison Kraft earlier this week, this review is in order to commemorate the centennial of the sinking of the Titanic. Originally I had planned to review three books about the Titanic this week, but unfortunately circumstances meant that I only had time to read two of the three.

This particular book is one that I’ve owned since I was only ten or so. I read it a few times before we moved to France but I never touched it again after that. This means that it’s been at least 11 years since I last read it. As my mother brought it over with a batch of other books that had been stored in my room there, I figured now was as good a time as any to revisit it.

I had no strong memories either way of this book so I went into it with a clean slate.

Title: Voyage on the Great Titanic, The Diary of Margaret Anne Brady, R.M.S. Titanic, 1912
Author: Ellen Emerson White
Series: My Story, Dear America
Publisher: Scholtastic
Target Audience: Children (8+)
Genre: Historical, diary
Length: 189 pages (story stops at p159)

Story: Monday, 15 April 1912
It was after midnight, I could still hear people moving about in the passageway. Before I had time to go out and join them, there was a sharp knock on my door. I opened it to see Robert. He was smiling, but his eyes looked urgent.

"Good evening, Miss Brady," he said "Need to put on something warm, and report to the Boat Deck with your life belt."

Miss Brady? When I heard that, I felt alarmed for the first time, but I was also startled....

"A routine drill," he said. "No need to fret."

I knew he needed to get on with his duties, so I found a smile for him and nodded.... Robert started for the next stateroom, but then stopped. "You'll not want to take your time," he said in a very quiet voice.

It did not seem possible--but maybe this was not a drill.

Thoughts and impressions: I have to be honest, the first third or so of the book is not particularly interesting or inspiring. The story starts several days prior to the ship sailing and a lot of scene setting takes place. The reader learns that Margaret is an orphan who was left at a convent by her brother when living on the streets meant that her health had taken a turn for the worse. He left to make a living in America, the plan being for her to join him there as soon as he’d saved up enough for her crossing. Fortunately for her, an American woman in need of a companion chooses to take Margaret with her on the Titanic.

The first third is mostly talking about the orphanage, the hotel where Mrs Carstairs is staying, Margaret’s own past, etc. Eventually they get to Southampton and they’re on the ship. Margaret’s from a family that always struggled to get by even before she lost both of her parents so travelling first class on such a ship as the Titanic is something that she would never even have dreamt of under normal circumstances. It also means that the reader gets the unique perspective of a young girl (she’s 13) discovering such opulence for the first time in her life. It also means that she’s able to give a specific commentary of those on board with her.

Unfortunately, it also means that she’s in the dark about certain things. When the ship hits the iceberg she na├»vely believes there to be enough lifeboats for everyone on board and spends most of her time just observing the other people on deck. The very simplistic voice of a younger narrator also lends a very poignant side to this story. The way the final, devastating events are shown in such terms reduced me to tears (though I have to admit that this could be due to fatigue and emotional levels). This commentary of events was far more effective than any flowery prose ever could be.

Taking into consideration that this book is aimed at children, it is a wonderful exploration of how circumstances were that night for the first class passengers for such an audience. Moreover, there are a historical note, a timeline of events and a number of photographs after the final page of the story that will ensure that the reader has a good grasp of the actual history. It’s a sad, sad day when people believe in ignorance that the 1997 Titanic film was entirely fictional (I have to wonder whether these people slept through school or even paid attention to the start of the film with all the footage of the real Titanic at the bottom of the ocean).

Anyway, this story is a wonderful introduction to the story of the Titanic. It is one that I will be keeping for the day when I have children of my own and they are old enough to appreciate the book.

Style: As mentioned, simplistic but all the more poignant for it.

Final verdict: In spite of the fact that the start of the story was slow and not all that interesting, I’m giving this book the full 5 stars.

Extra notes: No swearing. No sex.


  1. I had no idea there were people who thought the Titanic story was completely made up - that's as bad as people believing the Holocaust is fictional as well. Probably the same people...

    I really appreciated this book as well; I liked it as a kid when I got it at a book fair, and I enjoyed re-reading it last year.

  2. @Colleen I can't decide whether people really are that stupid and thought the Titanic was only a film or they're just being internet trolls. I think I'm more aiming towards the latter because I don't want to imagine how uncultured you'd have to be to believe the former!

    I think I got mine at a school book fair too! It's one that's really good no matter your age. Those are the keepers! :)

  3. good review--made me remember reading when i was a kid

  4. I love this book! I've read it too. The Titanic is one of my favorite subjects to study and read about. Great review!


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