|Painting of the Mary Celeste|
It's time to break the radio silence in order to sing praises to Valerie Martin and her new book, The Ghost of the Mary Celeste. Some history first: The Mary Celeste was a real ship that sailed from 1861-1885. She was considered cursed because three of her captains died on board. In 1872, Captain Benjamin Briggs, his wife Sarah, their two year-old daughter Sophia, and a crew of seven set sail in the Atlantic. Later the ship was found abandoned in the ocean, but there was nothing wrong with the boat. The one lifeboat was missing. The crew and Briggs family were never heard from again. Spooky stuff. Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, used the story of the Mary Celeste as the basis for his first story. Legends popped up about ghosts, mutinies, natural disasters, and the Bermuda Triangle.
|New York Times article|
about the lost ship.
her new novel,
I admit I'm a sucker for novels about the ocean in the golden age of exploration and whaling. So much was at stake for these people who boarded ships looking for new homes, riches, adventures. The ocean could and did swallow those who ventured out, and when hundreds of miles of water separate you from land, some crazy shit can happen (cannibal rat-infested cruise ship, anyone?). Martin perfectly captures this era and layers on the spiritualism craze of the late 1800's that saw society ladies participating in seances and talking to dead relatives. The Ghost of the Mary Celeste takes these elements and the mystery around the abandoned ship and creates a web of overlapping stories, history, ghosts, great characters, and superb writing. Here is first rate, atmospheric fiction to kick off the new year.