REVIEW of The Glass Ocean by Williams, Willig, and White

Glass OceanThis story weaves together the lives of three different women as it explores one of the iconic episodes of American history, the sinking of the Lusitania.

We learn first about Sarah Blake, a struggling author from the current day trying to track down the story of what happened to her ancestor on board the ill-fated ship. She comes across John Langford, a recently disgraced politician who may have the primary source documents she needs to uncover long lost secrets.

In this timeslip story, we also travel back to 1915 to the private lives of two passengers who made the voyage. Caroline Hochstetter’s perfect society life is slowly fragmenting. Her wealthy husband Gilbert is drifting farther and farther away, more interested in his business deals than their marriage relationship. To make matters worse, an old love interest, Robert Langford, is on board the ship too–and he seems only to happy to step into the husbandly role that Gilbert is abdicating.

On the second-class level of the ship, Tessa Fairweather has high hopes of making a new life in England. But her sister is insisting that they make one last heist before getting out of the business, and Tessa has suspicions that their projected theft might actually be espionage. First-class passenger, Robert Langford, takes an unusual interest in Tessa’s activities, and Tessa must decide what exactly his game is, and whether his interest in Caroline is part of it.

Of the three authors who assembled this book, it was Lauren Willig’s name that drew me to this book. I enjoyed her books The Other Daughter and The English Wife earlier this year, and I found that The Glass Ocean contained a well-developed plot and some of the clever conversation I so enjoy from her.

Of the three threads in the book, I particularly enjoyed the modern one with Sarah Blake. Determined to provide for her mother with Alzheimer’s, Sarah is under the gun to get a new book out as soon as possible to pay the bills. Her burgeoning relationship with John Langford was well-sculpted, and the atmosphere of the old country house and the deserted folly was exquisitely rendered. I also enjoyed Caroline’s thread, empathizing with the conflicted feelings she endured as her husband relegated her to the sidelines and Robert Langford pursued her with his attentions. Tessa’s story was harder for me to enter into. I didn’t feel the connection between her and her love interest, and I struggled to care about what happened to her.

Although I’m not certain whether the espionage plot had much historicity to it, it brought an excitement to a character-driven story. The knowledge of the Lusitania impending doom brought an urgency to the plot and the frisson of anticipation about who would survive. This book was an interesting read, and I’m curious to read more collaborations by the “W” Team.

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