The Titanic Survivors Book Club

Serendipity can yield unpredictable alliances, as is the case with the people who didn't board the Titanic--the central figures of The Titanic Survivors Book Club, Timothy Schaffert's opulent work of historical fiction. A year after the ocean liner sank, 26-year-old Yorick--his father was a vaudevillian who "fancied himself a Shakespearean actor"--is the owner of a Paris bookshop purchased with an inheritance. One morning, he finds outside the shop a bottle that contains an invitation to a saloon, where he meets a dozen others who also had tickets to the voyage. Among the attendees is a toymaker who has brought them together to share their tales. The two participants besides Yorick who figure most prominently are Zinnia, Japanese American daughter of a wealthy confectioner, and Haze, a young man whom Yorick finds attractive. Zinnia suggests they form a book club, an idea the toymaker says will give them an "unsentimental purpose."

Yorick chooses the books for the club, but one he doesn't select is Cyrano de Bergerac. That would have been apt: much to Yorick's frustration, Haze is sweet on Zinnia and asks Yorick to write love letters for him. Schaffert (The Perfume Thief) has fun exploring the contours of the trio's secrets and longings. Some of the writing is over-the-top, but readers who enjoy swoon-worthy fiction won't be disappointed. And the novel has heartfelt passages on the allure of books and the emotional challenges of trying to hold on to the past. In the market for unabashedly romantic literature? Schaffert delivers. --Michael Magras, freelance book reviewer

Powered by: Xtenit