Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan (2021)
Surviving Savannah tells a fictionalized account of the real-life sinking of the steamship Pulaski in 1838 through dual timelines. The past storyline is told from the points of view of two related Savannah society women as they fight for their survival, and the survival of their loved ones, after the ship's boiler explodes, causing irreparable damage. In the present storyline, readers meet Everly, a history professor who is curating a museum exhibit after the discovery of the doomed ship and its artifacts. The detail in this novel was just incredible. The amount of research Callahan did and was able to incorporate into the story was amazing - and the result was far from dry, as the 1838 storyline hit so many emotional levels. The present-day storyline takes place mostly in Savannah, where Everly lives and works. Savannah is a place I've always wanted to visit, and I felt like I practically did after reading this book. Callahan's lush descriptions almost made me feel like I was actually there. Although I felt Everly's personal story sometimes detracted from the heart of the novel, I enjoyed the way the two storylines came together and seeing Everly's process of researching and creating the exhibit. Overall, a fantastic novel about a historic event that most people have probably never heard of! 4 stars
The Last Voyage of the Andrea Doria by Greg King and Penny Wilson (2020)
In 1956, off the coast of Nantucket, the glamorous Italian ocean liner Andrea Doria was struck by another ship and sank hours later. In this book, author King and Wilson use in-depth research and interviews with the survivors to tell the story of the last hours of the ship. A ship sinking like this was kind of unthinkable at the time, as modern technology prevented ships from getting that close to each other, but a confluence of events (fog in the area, a sailor who didn't fully understand the equipment) caused such a tragedy. This was an event I had never heard of before, so I'm glad I was able to learn about it. The writing is very descriptive and heavily relies on quotes from those involved; hearing the survivors' stories in their own words is incredible. The authors give a lot of background on many of the passengers and the narrative moves from person to person and their experiences as the hours of the sinking went on. While this gave the story a very personal touch and was very gripping, it was often hard to keep track of all the people mentioned and almost felt overwhelming at times. There are of course sections that are hard to read because lives were lost, but there are also many instances of bravery, survival, and hope. 4 stars
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