A Novel Disaster

The story’s resemblance to the Titanic tragedy was uncanny.  Some called it “prophetic.”

Fourteen years before the “ship of dreams” foundered, Morgan Robertson published a novella, Futility or The Wreck of the Titan (1898).  The thrilling fictional story, with its palatial and virtually “unsinkable ship” of a similar sounding name, its shortage of lifeboats, its fateful April collision with a North Atlantic iceberg and  terrible loss of life, began, “She was the largest craft afloat and the greatest of the works of men.”

The book sent chills up the spines of those, who fourteen years later, were bombarded with newspaper accounts of the Titanic’s sinking.

While researching American newspaper archives for details to use in writing Promise Me This, I came across a Cape May County, New Jersey account of the sinking of the Titanic.  The next month, May, 1912, the same newspaper ran a weekly, serialized version of Robertson’s entire novella.

I could only imagine how reading that fictional story week after week might have affected survivors, or those who’d lost loved ones aboard the Titanic.  That image  spilled into the lives of my book’s characters.

The wee hours of Sunday, April 15, will mark one hundred years since Titanic sank.  One hundred years–and yet we’re still mesmerized by her maiden voyage and its sudden end.  Exactly what is our fascination with this most romanticized maritime disaster in the history of the world?

Is it heartbreak for those who froze in the icy sea?  Is it the magnificent “ship of dreams,” or the captain’s singular mandate, “Women and children first?”  The 1912 romance of the Edwardian era–so near its end?  Is it the survivors—how they went on living and what they did with their gift of life?  The idea that we live on the edge of a precipice—that our days are unpredictable—that they’re numbered?  That even the greatest works of men are no match for God or nature?

Is there some similarity, some link for us in 2012, as there was for those who perceived a link between the fictional Titan and the real Titanic, that gives us pause?

What do you think?  What life lessons does this Centennial forge for us?

A cup of mint tea sounds good to me.  And for you?   Sugar?

I’ll see you here, in the garden, next week.

God’s blessings,

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  • Carrie says:

    Wow, I’d never heard of that other story. It is strange how so many of the facts run paralell to the Titanic’s events. I hope people stop and consider the precious gift of life and the opportunities it gives us.

    • Cathy Gohlke says:

      Yes, it’s uncanny. I find so many lessons to glean from this event in history, and you’re right, the precious gift of life tops the list!

      Thank you for stopping by, Carrie!

      • Annette says:

        I thoroughly enjoyed your book Promise Me This! I wanted to know if you plan on writing a sequel. When I finished the book, I could not help thinking that several of the characters’ stories were left open. For example, what happened to Megan Marie, the Sprague family, Connie, Phillipe? What happened in Elinor Hargrave’s life that encouraged such horrific bitter hatred. Finally, who are the German cousins she was sending money to. Thank you for such a wonderfully great novel!

  • This is the first time I’ve heard of the novel about a similar ship.

    What strikes me is the boasting that the ship was unsinkable…a kind of seagoing tower of Babel.

    I’d love some Earl Grey English Breakfast Tea with sugar, please. 🙂

    • Cathy Gohlke says:

      It really does begin to sound like that, doesn’t it? Such arrogance on the part of some, and such trust on the part of so many–and all those lives . . .

      Wish I could pass you that cup of Earl Grey through the internet, Susan!

      Thanks for stopping by~~

      God’s blessings!

  • Mary DeFeo says:

    It is uncanny to think that I began reading “Promise Me This” April 13th not realizing that it was the centennial for the Titanic tradgedy. I was at my mom’s on the 15th and the news came on with a picture of the White Star Line building in Southhampton. The name White Star caught my attention and I realized while watching the report, the significance of the date. It’s just funny to have read your novel at that particular time.
    I look forward to reading your other novels.
    God bless you,

    • Cathy Gohlke says:

      That timing is uncanny, Mary! Life is sometimes simply stranger than fiction.

      I hope you enjoy the other novels, too. My next one, “Band of Sisters,” releases in September.

      God’s blessings for you!

  • Emily Wallace says:

    I absolutely loved your book! It was definitely a story that kept me mesmerized from beginning to end. I have to confess that I wish you could write a book about Michael’s little sister. I can’t imagine a little girl would have survived something like that back then, but it leaves such a sad thought in your mind, doesn’t it? Wonderful book!

  • Cathy Gohlke says:

    Thank you so much for writing, Emily. I’m delighted that you enjoyed “Promise Me This!”

    Your comment is so interesting. A few readers have suggested a sequel about Megan Marie. I don’t have plans to write that at this time, but you’ve given me something to think about. Her’s could be a very interesting story, especially at such a time, as you point out.

    Many thanks and God’s rich blessings to you!

  • Rachael says:

    I just finished Promise Me This and found it an almost haunting tale. I was amazed at how well you merged the story of the Titanic with WW1. It was. Beautifully sweeping story of epic proportions. Thank you for using your gift! God bless you!

    • Cathy Gohlke says:

      Thank you so much for writing, Rachael, and for your encouragement. “Promise Me This” was a joy to research and write–my song of praise to our loving Heavenly Father. I’m so glad you enjoyed it! God bless!

      • Rachael Birch says:

        Well again I wanted to thank you. You are an encouragement to me and I’m sure others. Hope you have something else in store for your fans (new and old). Have a wonderful week, I hope it’s as brilliant as mine has been!
        🙂 Rachael

  • Susanne Gillespie says:

    I downloaded your book onto my iPad when it was offered as a free item in honor of the Titanic’s anniversary. As a teacher in middle school English and writing in a Christian school, I have become very particular about what I read. Your “Promise Me This” was wonderfully captivating. I could not stop reading it and got little else accomplished today. You have a new fan, as I have discovered you and your lovely writing ability. Thank you for being my new blessing. Keep on writing. Blessings sent from Pennsylvania.

    • Cathy Gohlke says:

      Thank you so much for writing, Susanne. I’m delighted that you enjoyed “Promise Me This.” I take that as high praise coming from an English and writing teacher!

      You might be interested in my two earlier books, both of which have been used in some middle schools to combine history and literature: “William Henry is a Fine Name”–an Underground Railroad story–and “I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires”–a Civil War sequel.

      My next book releases in September–“Band of Sisters”–which is a similar reading level as “Promise Me This.”

      Many thanks, and God’s blessings to you, Susanne!

  • Barbara says:

    I just finished “Promise Me This.” I thought the book was outstanding and riveting! Thanks so much for producing a great book! The Titanic anniversary and the publishing of your book was uncanny! I’ll be waiting for more!

    • Cathy Gohlke says:

      I’m so glad you enjoyed “Promise Me This,” Barbara!

      My next novel, “Band of Sisters,” releases in February. I hope you’ll enjoy that one, too.

      God bless!

  • Loved reading this article again.

  • Lynne M Feuerstein says:

    Thanks for this great article Cathy,and for writing “Promise Me This”! It’s a beautiful,touching book that I never get tired of reading! It reminds us that the Titanic was a real tragic event affecting many lives not just a movie.

    • Cathy Gohlke says:

      Thank you, Lynne, for stopping by. I’m so glad you enjoyed Promise Me This, and that the story moved you. Writing that book was an emotional and blessed journey for me. The characters all still seem so very real to me.

      God’s blessings for you!

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