Love And Loss, Friendship And War
The Captain’s Daughter by Leah Fleming is an historical novel set between 1912 – 1959. The action moves from the Titanic to Akron, America; Lichfield, England; New York; Tuscany and the Italian battlefields of World War II. It is an epic story of love, loss, war and friendship.
The novel is told in the third person but from several different viewpoints as the action alternates between the continents.
We all know the story of the Titanic. Fact is interwoven with fiction within the pages of The Captain’s Daughter. The reader meets Captain Smith and the unsinkable Molly Brown, as well as the fictitious May and Celeste. As the ship goes down so friendships are forged that will not be broken, as lives are forever altered.
The novel deals with the role of women in society. Suffragettes are mentioned, and it is the women, under Margaret Brown who set up the Titanic relief fund for the poor who lost everything when the ship went down. At a time when there were no widows pensions, the Titanic relief fund was a real god send.
There is the difficult subject of domestic abuse contained within the novel’s pages. It is sensitively tacked by Leah Fleming. Women hid beatings they received because they were ashamed, they mistakenly thought they were to blame. They stood up for their husbands in public whilst cowering in private. Leah Fleming highlights the brutal nature of their lives and shows the courage needed to break free from the cycle of abuse.
Within the story there is the theme of searching and belonging. Orphaned characters do not know their roots. Hope that loved ones some-how survived the Titanic persists not only for weeks but sometimes for years. Hope refuses to die.
Leah Fleming deals with the theme of PTSD. It occurs in both the survivors of the Titanic and of war. The condition was not recognised at the time, but lives were shattered or altered by the horrors seen and heard.
There is also a secret running throughout the novel. It begins the night the Titanic goes down and it persists throughout the book. It is a secret that causes both guilt and hope. It is a secret that is almost taken to the grave. As the years pass, the secret becomes a heavier burden to bear but also one that cannot be shared.
The theme of friendship runs throughout the novel. Friendships are forged both on that fateful night in April 1912 and during the war years. These bonds of friendship will not be broken as they were made in adversity.
I love Leah Fleming’s novels. She writes not only with depth of knowledge but also with compassion. The Captain’s Daughter was a fabulous read and I can highly recommend it.