WRITTEN BY JENNI L. WALSH
REVIEW BY J. LYNN ELSE
This dual-timeline story follows the lives of Violet Jessop, who in real life survived the maritime disasters of the Olympic, Titanic, and Britannic, and that of Daphne Chaundanson, daughter of a famous actor who becomes an agent for the Special Operations Executive (SOE), French Section, during WWII. The book opens with young Violet, a White Star Line stewardess, preparing for the Titanic’s departure from Southampton Port. Despite her frightening experience on the Olympic, the tips she receives from passengers help support her mother and siblings. Daphne’s story opens in 1942 as she interviews to join a resistance movement. Angered by the Germans’ invasion of her home country, she sets out to break the German oppression. One connecting thread ties these two women, and two wars, together in tragedy.
To me, one of the most difficult aspects of writing historical fiction is creating authentic character mindsets, and Walsh captures this aspect beautifully. Daphne is passionate about taking back her country and is modeled upon the experiences of the 39 real-life SOE women. For Violet, the Titanic’s a job. She knows details employees of White Star Line would know, like the proper way to secure a life vest under a coat despite the uncomfortableness of the stiff cork against the body. While history tells us what happened, through Walsh’s compassionate prose, we’re able to feel what happened as well. Sitting in a lifeboat, wrapped in shadows of the night, as a ship groans its last and plunges into the Atlantic to the setting of explosives in a German depot while guard dogs bark close by: these settings feel that much more authentic under Walsh’s deft pen. Unsinkable is a story of courage, resilience, and steering your own course in life. Recommended!
Appeared in Issue 107 (February 2024) and online: https://historicalnovelsociety.org/reviews/unsinkable-2/