Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Voyage on the Great Titanic: The Diary of Margaret Anne Brady, 1912

Voyage on the Great Titanic: The Diary of Margaret Anne Brady, 1912

Ellen Emerson White
Historical Fiction  Series
For ages 12 and up
Scholastic USA, 1998   ISBN: 978-0590962735

Margaret can hardly believe all the sudden changes that have come into her life in the last few days. First she was told by the sisters at the orphanage where she lives that she has been offered a job as a companion to a lady who is travelling to America on the new ship RMS Titanic. Then she went and took tea with the lady in question, a Mrs. Carstairs, at Claridges Hotel. After this she was fitted with new clothes so that she will be suitably dressed for the journey.

Margaret is assailed by a whole range of feelings about this change in her fortunes. She is delighted that she will at long last be able to join her brother in America. She is of course nervous of taking such a long trip with a comparative stranger, going to a new country and a new life that she knows so little about. She is also sad to be leaving Sister Katherine and little Nora at the orphanage; one who has been a mother figure to her and the other who depends on Margaret for comfort.

Still, this is an opportunity that Margaret cannot pass up and soon she is on the great ship, gazing at the lavish appointments, enjoying the comforts, and making a few friends. Robert, their steward, becomes an especially good friend to Margaret, and the two share many good chats talking about their lives and dreams.

It is in fact Robert who comes to get Margaret on the night of April 14th, telling her to dress warmly and to put on her life vest. At first Margaret believes that the whole business of going on deck to the life boats is indeed a drill but soon enough she discovers that the Titanic has hit an iceberg and is sinking. It is hard to believe that such a ship, the "unsinkable" Titanic could indeed be going down but as the deck starts to tilt the truth cannot be denied.

It also cannot be denied that Margaret is the kind of girl whom we can admire. The orphaned daughter of working class parents Margaret has managed to acquire a polished "refined" accent, and she sounds "very learned" which we can tell she is because she reads all the time and because of the way in which she writes in her diary. With a sharp wit (which she tries to keep in check), and astute observations about the world around her Margaret entertains us with her descriptions of her life and the extraordinary events which change everything. At the same time Margaret’s openness helps us to see how tragic the whole Titanic disaster was from a very personal viewpoint. Not only does Margaret regret the loss of all those lives, but she also questions why she got to live when so many others did not.

With interesting glimpses of the social standards of the times and subtle indications of how the class system divided the people, the author lets us see how different Margaret’s world was from the one we live today. She shows us how this was a world where people "kept to their station" no matter what and how crossing the invisible barriers between the classes was not tolerated - even when a ship was sinking.

Fascinating, moving, and beautifully written, this is a novel which will leave the reader with much to think about.