Book Review: The Deep by Alma Katsu (ARC)

The Deep

Author: Alma Katsu

Publication Date: 10 March 2020

Genre: Adult Fiction – Historical Fiction/Horror & Supernatural Retelling

Pages: 432

Publisher: G.P. Putnam Son’s

From the acclaimed and award-winning author of The Hunger comes an eerie, psychological twist on one of the world’s most renowned tragedies, the sinking of the Titanic and the ill-fated sail of its sister ship, the Britannic.

Someone, or something, is haunting the ship. That is the only way to explain the series of misfortunes that have plagued the passengers of the Titanic from the moment they set sail. The Titanic‘s passengers expected to enjoy an experience befitting the much-heralded ship’s maiden voyage, but instead, amid mysterious disappearances and sudden deaths, find themselves in an eerie, unsettling twilight zone. While some of the guests and crew shrug off strange occurrences, several–including maid Annie Hebbley, guest Mark Fletcher, and millionaires Madeleine Astor and Benjamin Guggenheim–are convinced there’s something more sinister going on. And then disaster strikes.

Years later, Annie, having survived that fateful night, has attempted to put her life back together by going to work as a nurse on the sixth sailing of the Britannic, newly refitted as a hospital ship to support British forces fighting World War I. When she happens across an unconscious Mark, now a soldier, she is at first thrilled and relieved to learn that he too survived the tragic night four years earlier. But soon his presence awakens deep-buried feelings and secrets, forcing her to reckon with the demons of her past–as they both discover that the terror may not yet be over.

Featuring an ensemble cast of characters and effortlessly combining the supernatural with the height of historical disaster, The Deep is an exploration of love and destiny, desire and innocence, and, above all, a quest to understand how our choices can lead us inexorably toward our doom.

When I first heard about this reimagining of the tragedy surrounding the Titanic as a potential ghost story, I couldn’t get my hands on The Deep fast enough.

Alma Katsu crafts an intriguing tale blending fact and fiction in this supernatural reimagining of the dreadful tragedies surrounding both the RMS Titanic and HMHS Britannic. As seen in the movie Titanic, she integrates characters within this story that were actually aboard RMS Titanic. Additionally, much of the inspiration behind our beloved main character, Annie Hebbley was a nod to Violet Jessop (also a character in the story), a nurse who famously survived the sinkings of both ships.

The Deep alternates timelines that follow Annie Hebbley’s voyages; first as a stewardess upon RMS Titanic then as a nurse upon HMHS Britannic. Upon the Titanic, Annie believes that she is haunted. She constantly finds herself in the middle of strange circumstances. We find out that Annie was in a mental institution following her survival, and she has difficulty recalling any memories from that time. It’s not until she is aboard the Britannic that her memories slowly start to come back to her, and we start to understand all the misgivings that were taking place before the Titanic sank.

Katsu did an incredible job with the atmospheric writing in this story. From the beginning, we are thrown into the luxurious and extravagant setting of the Titanic. The hopes and dreams that this ship held were palpable from the pages. This starkly contrasted the dire conditions of the Britannic, which housed the wounded from the war. It’s halls wreaked of despair and tragedy, which was also fitting considering the opulence that sank with the Titanic.

In terms of characters, while I commend Katsu on providing an immersive setting that was factually accurate, I felt that so many of the characters were superfluous to the story line. The story mainly focuses on Annie Hebbley and her relationship with Mark and Caroline Fletcher and their daughter Ondine.

As far as plot goes, the story started off in a propulsive manner, but quickly fizzled out as we were bogged down with way too many details regarding the voyages versus ramping up the supernatural elements, which was what I was here for. Some may enjoy really delving into the historical fiction, but I wanted more ghosts. There were ample opportunities for maximum spookiness, but I felt that they were squandered in favor of further character development. Again, that was just not my personal preference.

Overall, I do think that The Deep is an interesting read, and if you love the history related to these cursed ships, you’ll enjoy this one. Personally, I wanted more from the supernatural side of things, which is why I was left wanting.

Thank you to Putnam Books for providing a review copy. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.

5 comments

  1. I totally agree with you on pretty much everything! Katsu’s writing is so atmospheric. This was definitely different to what I expected. I thought there’d be more supernatural events but the eerieness of the setting definitely worked its way under my skin and had me nervously anticipating what would happen next. I was pretty confused trying to understand the purpose of all the characters though. That was definitely the most disappointing aspect for me. Great review!

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