INTERRUPTED DREAMS is an entirely new look at the Titanic tragedy of 1912. A journey through the days before, during and after Titanic’s maiden voyage, it is a heartfelt window into the lives of those faced with mortality and loss.
In Part 1, Algerian-born Malik Massi tragically loses his childhood sweetheart on a honeymoon trip to the Aures Mountains. He starts a new life in Paris, where he meets spunky Parisian cook Françoise. Together they plan to work their way across the Atlantic on a steamship for a new life in the United States. Françoise becomes pregnant but doesn’t tell her lover. Meanwhile, John Jacob Astor IV is vacationing on the Nile with his new young bride and Denver friends, Margaret Brown and daughter Helen. Other characters are introduced: Harland and Wolff shipbuilders, Captain EJ Smith, First Officer William Murdoch, band members Wallace Hartley and Jock Hume, restaurateur Luigi Gatti, and others. For different reasons, all end up on Titanic in April of 1912. Their lives and fates are about to become intertwined.
Part 2 encompasses the five days Titanic is at sea. Malik is now a third class steward, and Françoise a shellfish cook in the À La Carte Restaurant; they steal after-hour moments together. Each befriends different passengers and their children, but Françoise still hides her pregnancy and Malik will not disclose the truth about his first wife. First Class Stewardess Violet Jessop and her good friend Dr. O’Loughlin take tea together; other vignettes describe life at sea for numerous characters, drawn from actual ship routine, until 11:40 PM on Sunday, April 14, when the iceberg is sighted. Seconds later, Titanic’s hull scrapes along it.
Each moment from impact until the last lifeboat is launched is recounted, through the thoughts, words, and actions of crew and passengers. The two young men who run the wireless equipment send out warnings to nearby ships, but none is close enough to make a difference. The ship’s architect Thomas Andrews determines Titanic will sink within an hour, with lifeboats for less than half those on board. Malik and another steward, John Hart, endeavor to save some third class women and children. Françoise helps a father and his two young sons reach the boat deck. She is injured when her lifeboat is lowered and loses both consciousness and ultimately, her memory. Malik is saved when Murdoch orders him and John Hart into one of the last lifeboats, along with their passengers. Others meet their fate resolutely, including William Murdoch, Luigi Gatti, Jack Astor, the Titanic band, Dr. O’Loughlin, and a great number of the men, crew and passengers alike.
Part 3 starts with the rescue at 4:30 AM on Monday, April 15, by Carpathia of those in the lifeboats. It ends back in Paris on August 2, 1912. In between, Malik seeks the truth of what happened to Françoise, in New York and Paris, but also at sea-- he interviews the only three survivors from the ship’s restaurant where Françoise worked; later he receives the help of a young French woman who was not a passenger, Marcelle Navratil, travelling to the U.S. to reclaim her two sons—the boys Françoise helped into the lifeboats. Margaret Brown becomes Malik’s friend on Carpathia and shows up later in New York, to honor Carpathia’s captain and crew, but also to help her friend. Françoise is treated at Bellevue for a head injury, then walks out on her own and disappears. Others come to Malik’s assistance, including a young man from one of the shelters that received Titanic survivors and Senator William Alden Smith, who headed the U.S. investigation into the sinking.
The ending is yet another of the hollow victories achieved by the Titanic survivors, who counted far too many losses in their journey to safety. It is questionable whether any but the very young regained true peace and happiness during their remaining years. The tragedy continues to haunt our collective consciousness one hundred years later.
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Published March 21, 2012
History, Literature & Fiction.