Told in three different perspectives and two time periods, “The Glass Ocean” is a tale of intrigue and romance centered on the sinking of the RMS Lusitania in 1915.
A trio of talented historical-fiction writers have teamed up again for a stunning mystery spanning the centuries in “The Glass Ocean.”
Told in three different perspectives and two time periods, “The Glass Ocean” — by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig and Karen White, or “Team W” — is a tale of intrigue and romance centered around the sinking of the RMS Lusitania in 1915.
In New York in 2013, best-selling author and historian Sarah Blake is stuck for ideas for her next book when she stumbles upon the belongings of her great-grandfather, who died when the Lusitania went down. Her discovery takes her across the Atlantic to the estate of John Langford, a disgraced member of Parliament whose family archives and possible connection to her own ancestor could help her uncover a bombshell historical secret.
We jump back to 1915, where southern belle Caroline Hochstetter and her husband, Gilbert, are preparing to board the Lusitania. He’s planning to sell a rare waltz manuscript by Johann Strauss; she’s hoping the voyage might help save their faltering marriage, as her husband has grown increasingly distant. But as Gilbert continues to keep himself occupied with business affairs, she takes solace in the arms of an old friend, Robert Langford.
Most Read Entertainment Stories
- At historic Royal Esquire Club, members add new energy amid a changing Seattle
- Thinking of going to Ashland for Oregon Shakespeare Festival? Here's what to see and where to sleep and eat.
- 'No-No Boy' went from unknown book to classic thanks to UW Press and Asian American writers. Now, it's at the center of a controversy.
- 9 movies, including 'Men in Black: International,' open June 14; our reviewers weigh in
- Seattle Art Museum names new director and CEO: Amada Cruz, from Phoenix Art Museum
Also in 1915, thief and forger Tess Schaff is traveling second-class on Lusitania, and she’s on a mission, hoping it will be her last criminal act before she starts a new life in England. She’s supposed to steal that valuable waltz from the Hochstetters and copy it for a wealthy buyer who’s made an arrangement with Tess’ sister and partner in crime, Ginny.
The authors’ depiction of life aboard the Lusitania during its fateful final voyage is rich and well-researched. The shifting perspectives keep the story constantly moving and changing, like the rolling of a ship on the waves, and twists abound on both sides of the ocean and the time gap.
We’re also invited to emotionally invest in all three characters, even though their motivations are often in conflict. Many of the secondary characters are also nicely developed; others are less so and a couple veer into parody.
At first, the sections from Sarah’s perspective in the 21st century were the least interesting, and I couldn’t wait for the next chapter to take me back in time to 1915. But as she and John progress in their research — and in romance — they uncover clues that heighten the tension and keep us guessing about what really happened aboard the ship.
We already know a big part of how this story ends, of course: The ship sinks, torpedoed by a German U-boat 11 miles off the coast of Ireland. But “The Glass Ocean” takes us to unexpected places during that journey, and despite the tragedy, gives us a satisfying ending.
“The Glass Ocean” by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig and Karen White, William Morrow, 416 pp., $26.99