Book Review: Unspeakable: Book 1 by Caroline Pignat

Unspeakable: Book 1 by Caroline Pignat
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Publisher:  Razorbill

Summary:   On her first voyage as a stewardess aboard the Empress of Ireland, Ellie is drawn to the solitary fire stoker who stands by the ship’s rail late at night, often writing in a journal.

Jim. Ellie finds it hard to think of his name now. After their wonderful time in Quebec City, that awful night happened. The screams, the bodies, the frigid waters … she tries hard to tell herself that he survived, but it’s hard to believe when so many didn’t. So when Wyatt Steele, journalist at The New York Times asks her for her story, Ellie refuses. But when he shows her Jim’s journal, she jumps at the chance to be able to read it herself, to find some trace of the man she had fallen in love with, or perhaps a clue to what happened to him. There’s only one catch: she will have to tell her story to Steele and he’ll “pay” her by giving her the journal, one page at a time.

I'd never heard of the RMS Empress of Ireland nor her foundering in the St Lawrence River in May 1914 that took with it 1012 souls, so this was not only an entertaining read it was also informative. Ellie Hardy was a good heroine to follow. She's young, fallen and shamed and enrolled in employment as a stewardess on the Empress by her maiden author aunt Geraldine. She's the window into what life was like on the ship and also what the horror the night it sank was. There's also the not small matter of her search for a man she fell in love with who also worked on the ship, Jim. I admit that I didn't really feel much for the romance with Jim though I liked him well enough. By the end of the story I was pulling a little more for Wyatt the journalist who was set to the task of getting Ellie's story.

Ellie's life had a dash of rich girl ship love angst of Rose from Titanic, a dollop of Tess of the D'ubervilles (perhaps her last name was Hardy as a nod. ;) ) and a sprinkling of Downton Abbey. It was all just enough to remind but none of these reminders were so heavy handed as to take over the story. One thing that did take me out of the story, on more than one occasion, were some phrase usages that felt far too modern day coming out of the mouths of the characters. It was a bit glaring at times but I read enough historical fiction that this isn't my first instance of that so it didn't ruin the entire story for me. Overall, I enjoyed the story & it was a very fast read that I would recommend. I fully intend on reading more about the Empress of Ireland story to learn more. If there's to be a book 2 of Ellie's adventures, I'll likely seek it out to read. 3.5 stars

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