Review of the Deep by Alma Katsu

Alma Katsu’s novel gives readers an eerie, psychological twist on the trans-Atlantic journey.

The Deep by Alma Katsu (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2020)

One of the most popular and awe-inspiring historical tragedies, the story of the Titanic’s maiden and only voyage, has captured the imagination of many writers, film-makers, and readers. With everything that has been already written about the Titanic, what more can be explored? In The Deep (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2020), Alma Katsu, acclaimed author of The Hunger (2018), gives readers an eerie, psychological twist on the tale of the Titanic and her sister ship, the Britannic, which had been outfitted as a medical ship during WWI. Misfortune, disappearance, and tragedy fill the four day voyage: in Katsu’s novel, someone or something is haunting these ships.

Annie Hubbley sought employment as a stewardess aboard the Titanic to escape her small Northern Ireland town and a tragic romantic past. On board, she finds herself oddly drawn to a first-class family and their baby. After surviving the ship’s sinking, she spends four years in an asylum trying to find some kind of solace. However, a letter from a friend, who was also a stewardess aboard the Titanic, brings Annie back to the sea, this time, to board the Britannic as a nurse. But when another survivor of the wreck turns up among the wounded, it becomes apparent that the specter that haunted the Titanic is not going to stay buried beneath the waves.

Katsu has certainly done her research; while Annie is the main character, Katsu also uses the perspectives of real passengers from the historical Titanic voyage: Mark Fletcher and his wife Caroline; young pregnant Madeleine Astor; Lady Lucy Duff-Gordon, a famous British fashion designer; William T. Stead, controversial British newspaper editor; and Dai Bowen, a professional boxer to tell her chilling tale. Each character seems to be haunted by something — a past, a lost love, a curse, a forbidden desire, a mistake — leaving readers wondering which ghost is responsible for the happenings on board.

Mostly told in the past tense, aboard the Titanic, Katsu sprinkles in scenes from the present voyage aboard the Brittanic to help build suspense and slowly reveal the truth of what happened in the days leading up to the famous tragedy.  She also seamlessly ties together historical fact with supernatural elements and Irish folklore. Readers are taken on a supernatural journey that leads them to a surprising reveal that connects the characters. Despite the inevitable tragedies that await these characters, Katsu keeps readers intrigued with tales of love, betrayal, and revenge, and leaves them thinking about the kinds of choices that can lead to tragic endings.

Assistant fiction editor Lizziegh Enos is a double major in creative writing and conservation biology at Lake Superior State University. Her work has appeared in Snowdrifts and Nota Bene. She was the 2015 statewide LAND creative writing contest winner and the 2019 recipient of the Stellanova Osborn Poetry Scholarship. Enos currently resides in Sault Sainte Marie, MI.