Book review: Unspeakable

Book review: Unspeakable

By Caroline Pignat
ISBN: 9780143187554
Price: $15.99
Published by Razorbill (an imprint of Penguin Canada)

Review by John Spychka

A love story that rivals the Titantic.

Young Ellen Ryan has a secret that has estranged her from her father and caused her aunt, a famous writer living in Liverpool, to ship her off on the Empress of Ireland to work as a stewardess.

On the ship, Ellen meets Jim, one of the ship’s stokers, and is immediately smitten with him. Jim too has a secret that keeps him from falling in love with Ellen.

Then that terrifying night in May 1914 on the St. Lawrence River when the Storstad rams the starboard side of the Empress of Ireland, sinking her in 14 minutes and leaving only 465 survivors.

Ellen survived but fears she has lost Meg, her best friend, and Jim, her only true love in the sinking.

Wyatt Steele, an American journalist, offers to give Ellen Jim’s journal in exchange for her story. Ellen desperately wants to know the contents of the journal, but finds it too painful to relive that deadly night.

Pignat has a flair for building strong characters and an upbeat, flowing style to go along with it. She weaves a fascinating story of love, heartbreak, intrigue, resilience, and renewal on the backdrop of Canada’s worst maritime tragedy.

About Author

John Spychka

John Spychka has dabbled in writing since the early ’90s. His closest claim to fame came around 2006 when his work, “The Slava Ladies League Christmas Pyrogy Fiasco,” was shortlisted for the annual Writers’ Union of Canada’s Short Prose Competition. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in English Literature at the University of Calgary and also has a Master’s in English Literature from Université Laval. He has travelled extensively, having lived in Japan and France. John is a manager in a multi-national software company and dreams to one day be able to live off his writing. He lives in Quebec City with his wife and two children.

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