28 March 2014

Review: The Ghost of the Mary Celeste by Valerie Martin

Historical Fact
The Mary Celeste was a merchant ship and on 5 December 1872 it was discovered abandoned in calm waters in the Indian Ocean and sailing towards the Strait of Gibraltar.

There was no sign of the crew despite plenty of food and water on board and no signs of foul play; although one of the lifeboats was missing.  The crew's personal belongings and valuables were undisturbed and their disappearance is one of the greatest maritime mysteries in the world.

When I first learned about the publication of The Ghost of the Mary Celeste by Valerie Martin, I was over the moon ecstatic!  The mystery of the Mary Celeste has fascinated me for years and I couldn't wait to find out how the author would tackle the mystery.  Would she provide an answer to the mystery? Would she suggest pirates, mutiny, drunkenness or some other calamity? I couldn't wait to find out and my expectations were sky high.

My review
This isn't a novel about the Mary Celeste so much as a novel about characters related to the crew members of the ship.  Those expecting a novel documenting the ship at sea with the climax of the crew's disappearance and perhaps subsequent enquiry are in for a major disappointment.  

We hear from Sarah, the Captain's wife aboard the Mary Celeste at the time of the ship's demise.  We also hear from Arthur Conan Doyle, who penned a make believe account of the Mary Celeste a few years after the mystery, heightening the popularity of the maritime mystery and increasing his own notoriety.

The novel includes a great deal about spiritualism of the era, spearheaded by renowned medium and clairvoyant Violet Petra who is being investigated by reporter Phoebe.  Violet's lifestyle and lonely existence was fascinating however I was frustrated by the weak link to the Mary Celeste.

I also read The Ghost of the Mary Celeste during the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines MH370 which further heightened my senses for the mysterious and unexplained.  

The ill-fated Mary Celeste
Despite this historical novel being very well researched it failed to meet even my modest expectations.  I've since concluded that I was yearning for a different book; one that hones in on the mystery, the ship's curse and takes the reader through their version of what happened.

As such, it pains me to admit, The Ghost of the Mary Celeste was an average read for me.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

Would you like to comment?

  1. Thank goodness! Now I don't have to bother adding it to my TBR pile. I also have a keen interest in mysteries of this type (and this mystery specifically) but I might look elsewhere for my fix :) Thanks

  2. I'm so glad to hear I've saved you some reading time, I love when that happens. If you find another fictional account of the Mary Celeste, please let me know, I'd love to check it out.


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Thanks for your comment, Carpe Librum!