Paperback, 320 pages
Published March 1st 2010 by Scholastic
Description via Goodreads:
Science, history, and romance intertwine in Suzanne Weyn's newest novel. Four sisters and their mother make their way from a town in New York to London, becoming acquainted with journalist W. T. Stead, scientist Nikola Tesla, and industrialist John Jacob Astor. When they all find themselves on the Titanic, one of Tesla's inventions dooms them...and one could save them.
My thanks go to Scholastic for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.
I saw the cover and the tagline of this book and immediately wanted to pick it up. Whilst I haven't read all that much, I have really enjoyed the historical fiction that I have read. The tagline of this book tells us that it's a novel of the Titanic, and so I though that would certainly capture my interest. In fact, the book only partly (and quite briefly) takes part on the Titanic. This didn't actually bother me at all as I did enjoy the rest of the setting of the novel, primarily in a place called 'Spirit Vale', where many spiritualists reside. I do feel as though some people may think that the tagline is a little misleading - you should expect a lot more from this book than a trip on the Titanic.
I don't think that this was really a novel of the Titanic - it was more a novel of science and spirituality, set in a historical period, featuring some well-known historical figures. A lot of the novel centres around our protagonist, Jane, and her family's abilities to communicate to the dead, especially her mother, Maude, who is a medium and her two twin sisters, Amelie and Emma. I personally find mediums and spirituality very fascinating and that may be why I enjoyed this book. There was a lot of foreshadowing though, and of course we know what happened to the Titanic, and so this left little room for suspense. There is romance between a few of the characters, which adds something enjoyable to the story, but it did seem a little too rushed by the end.
The debate between characters as to whether or not this spiritualism was fakery or whether it was genuine, and the change of these opinions throughout, was fascinating. Distant Waves did have a somewhat paranormal feel to it and I would imagine that it would appeal to some young adult paranormal fans, though I did feel that the writing and plot itself is more geared more towards middle-grade children.
As I have mentioned, this book would fit into the historical fiction genre and some of the main characters that are mentioned were indeed real - examples include Nikola Tesla, Arthur Conan-Doyle and Houdini amongst others. I think that readers could gain some knowledge of these figures from this book as it does incorporate some facts about them and what they were famous for - the only problem is that many things that they're associated with are fictitious (and situations did seem slightly ridiculous at points) and so it could be hard to distinguish fact from fiction. Of course, this book could hopefully give a starting point for more research into these people.
Weyn also incorporated mentions of some other important historical points, such as women's suffrage and civil rights, as well as making allusions to the upcoming Great War. Unfortunately, it was as all of these comments were made in passing and sometimes it was as though Weyn was trying to cram in all mentions of these events for the sake of it - it felt a little forced. It may have been better if these points were developed.
This was a reasonably enjoyable, quick read but it felt rushed at the end, which was a shame. It wasn't particularly emotional and it didn't have enough suspense for me, but it was enjoyable enough. I think that I may have enjoyed this more if I was a little younger than I am now and that this would be a particularly good book for middle grade children who have an interest in history and/or science.
Here is the official book trailer for Distant Waves.