Hodgetts excels at setting vivid fiction in a convincingly realized past. She finds compelling drama in a Senate inquiry populated with historical figures, crafting a fast-paced, expertly written story that immerses readers from page one. Her focus on class disparities among the Titanic’s survivors, and the discrimination faced by the steerage survivors, is chilling and resonant, a reminder of the treatment visited uponimmigrants to the U.S., such as the “humiliating so-called health examinations” endured by women.
Unlike so many Titanic stories, Hodgetts highlights the aftermath. Her reimagining of the crowded conditions on the Carpathia, the hunt for the Titanic’s crew, and the media frenzy that followed the disaster offers a fascinating new perspective, all while Kate strives to reinvent herself after the financial downfall of her family and navigate the upper-class society where she once belonged.
Takeaway: This resonant historical novel finds a young woman facing the aftermath of the Titanic disaster.
Great for fans of: Walter Lord’s The Night Lives On, John Maxtone-Graham’s Titanic Tragedy: A New Look at the Lost Liner.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: B+
A very revealing tale of the most famous shipwreck in modern history!
A very detailed story of the Titanic and it's disaster at sea in the North Atlantic and icebergs!
If you've ever wondered about the truth of what really happened ,
You should read this expertly written book!
There’s a clear reason why Eileen Enwright Hodgetts continues to mine the 1912 Titanic disaster for creative inspiration.
“I can’t really tell you why it holds the fascination it does,” the Beaver County author and playwright told the Post-Gazette. “I can only say that everything I do about the Titanic attracts attention. I get letters, people talk to me. It’s a never-ending topic of interest.”
Hodgetts, of Baden, has always been fascinated by shipwrecks. Arguably the most famous one ever inspired her to write a play called “Titanic to All Ships” that’s currently being adapted into the feature film “Unsinkable.” It was filming in the Pittsburgh area before production was shut down in March 2020 due to COVID-19.
On Thursday, she added to her Titanic-themed oeuvre with the release of a new novel, “The Girl on the Carpathia: A Novel of the Titanic” (Emerge Publishing, $15.99), which follows the journey of one person on the RMS Carpathia. The ship picked up the approximately 700 survivors of the tragedy that claimed the lives of more than 1,500 people.
“The Girl on the Carpathia” is Hodgetts’ 17th novel and, like the play and movie, explores the U.S. Senate hearings that followed the Titanic sinking to determine who was to blame for the massive amount of casualties.
“This one is really exciting because it’s been a process I’ve been sharing with my readers, so it’s almost group-think,” Hodgetts said. “It has a lot of input from a lot of other people. I don’t feel like I did it on my own. I did it with the help of my readers.”
Originally from the south of England, Hodgetts relocated to Pittsburgh in 1970 with her husband, Graham, who serves as her manager and as an executive producer on “Unsinkable.” They only planned to stay a year, but they’re still here more than 50 years later.
“I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” she said.
She actually prefers Western Pennsylvania’s erratic weather to the dreariness of her native United Kingdom. But that wasn’t the only reason she stayed.
“Most of all, we liked the people,” Hodgetts said. “They just made us feel so welcome, even though they didn’t understand what we were saying half the time. We made our home here and made our friends here.”
Hodgetts had been writing “failed novels” since she was 18 and began writing plays in the 1980s while involved with Cranberry’s Comtra Theatre. “Titanic to All Ships” was supported by a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.
Unlike the romance and intrigue of director James Cameron’s 1997 “Titanic” film, Hodgetts’ play was more of a courtroom drama about the Senate hearings. An easy scapegoat during the inquest was Bruce Ismay, chairman of the White Star Line. He didn’t go down with the ship and “became immensely unpopular because of that,” according to Hodgetts.
“Everyone knows it sank,” she said. “That can’t be your big moment.”
Living here came in handy for Hodgetts’ Titanic ambitions as a copy of those Senate transcripts happened to be housed at Oakland’s Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. And now, the cinematic adaptation of “Titanic to All Ships” is also coming together in the Steel City, albeit fairly slowly.
“Unsinkable” has been filming in the region since 2017 and put out a casting call for local extras for a scene with stars Karen Allen and Cotter Smith as recently as August 2019. Production was taking place everywhere from Downtown to the Settlers Cabin Park Wave Pool and was 70% completed before COVID-19 hit and shut everything down, according to PMI Films president David Case.
He said most of the outdoor water scenes had been shot and that he hopes to resume filming in Pittsburgh by the end of summer. It’s tough for him to say exactly when that will happen because COVID-19 filming protocols have made it too expensive for the small production company to get going again.
“If you’re a big studio, that’ll add several million dollars to the production cost of your film,” Case said. “But we are an independent, and several million dollars isn’t something we’re willing to invest in addition to the production costs. So we’ll wait.”
In the meantime, there has been no decline in interest over anything Titanic-related, as evidenced by the life-sized Titanic replica currently being constructed in China and the strong presale numbers Hodgetts has been seeing for “The Girl on the Carpathia.”
She hopes her many Titanic-themed projects serve as “a memory here of all those people who didn’t survive” and as an appreciation to her longtime supporters.
“I would like to say thank you to the first group of actors who first performed ‘Titanic to All Ships,’” Hodgetts said. “They really helped me hone that play into what it turned out to be. And if I hadn’t written that play, I wouldn’t be anywhere where I am now.”