Reviews /

Call of the Titanic

Authored by Lindsay Galvin
Published by Chicken House

Call of the Titanic is a fictionalised account of the sinking of the Titanic and the part RMS Carpathia played in the rescue effort.

The story contains real characters alongside fictional individuals: Arthur Rostron, Captain of the Carpathia, Harold Cottam, Telegraph Operator, Bernice Palmer, amateur photographer travelling with her mother on Carpathia. Sid Daniels, a 3rd class cabin steward on Titanic, is a real person who survived and here becomes one of the witnesses at the inquiry into the disaster. Clara is entirely invented to provide an account of the events from the perspective of a passenger (in her case an accidental stowaway) on Carpathia. Where the story develops a fantasy element is the introduction of a sea serpent (apparently Captain Rostron believed he had seen one on a previous voyage) and Rigel, a Newfoundland dog who probably did not exist but became one of the myths reported by journalists seeking an even more sensationalist angle on the sinking.

The stories of Sid and Clara are told alternately, Sid’s through his responses to questions at the inquiry and letters to his mother; Clara’s as a first-person account. In the story, she is the cousin of Harold, the telegraph operator. She is angry that her longed-for time with Harold when he visits her family the night before joining Carpathia is cut short as a punishment for disobeying her parents. She travels to New York, boards the ship and hides with the intention of disembarking once she has seen Harold. Needless to say, she doesn’t manage to do this, a device which allows the author to introduce a headstrong, impetuous but courageous young girl into the story. She and Rigel the dog make a number of enemies on board once they are discovered, but in a somewhat unlikely turn of events, she is lodged with the Palmers in their first-class accommodation for the rest of the voyage.

This is a story that will undoubtedly appeal to Upper KS2 readers. I very much enjoyed reading the author notes at the end and learning which of the characters had really existed. Clara will appeal to young readers who are again provided with feisty heroines. Whilst for passengers in the lifeboats on that terrifying night, the events no doubt ran as a series of near-misses and high hopes, the final stages of the story are perhaps just a little too long-drawn-out. However, the whole is immaculately researched to provide a realistic tone, particularly to Sid’s responses at the inquiry, and will add to the young reader’s understanding of one of the most famous maritime disasters.