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Best Books of 2017 – Chapter 5

Another great $1.99 BookBub find was Collision Course: The Classic Story of the Collision of the Andrea Doria and the Stockholm by Alvin Moscow. What sold me on this book was the review that said if you liked Walter Lord’s A Night to Remember about the Titanic, you would thoroughly enjoy this story as well. And just like Lord’s classic tale, this book was thoroughly researched and accurately recounts a factual narration of the disaster based on court proceedings and interviews with survivors.

Other than a familiarity with the name Andrea Doria, I knew nothing about this maritime disaster that occurred just a few months after I was born. But just based on the photo on the cover of the book, I knew it was not going to be a happy ending. But the story I learned by reading this book amazed me.

Just like other history books I have read where even though I knew the outcome, I quickly found myself hoping the series of events that unfolded would end in a different way. As the two ships neared each other on a course that might have been a “near-miss” had multiple random events not occurred, my heart began to race as I sped over the pages. And even after the collision that tore a gaping hole in the right side of the Andrea Doria, rapid occurrences on both ships kept my pulse high.

It was with extreme interest that I read the individual stories of survivors who through serendipitous actions, just happened to be out of their cabins just moments before where the ship was struck.  Other stories of victims who had retired for the night early would have survived had they not returned to their cabins.

However, the most incredible story was the one of a 14 year old girl who was asleep in her bunk on the Andrea Doria when the Stockholm penetrated inside her cabin and when the Stockholm pulled back from the forward motion of the Andrea Doria, was catapulted from her bunk onto the deck of the Stockholm.  The same could not be said for her younger sister asleep in the bunk just across from her as she perished in the crushing blow.

The lengthy trial that occurred afterward tried to find fault and liability between the two ships and their captains. But in the end, the outcome could not overshadow the fact that of the 1,706 passengers and crew on the Andrea Doria, 1,662 were rescued in the largest maritime rescue operation of all time, a much different story from the 1,517 people who perished in the sinking of the Titanic.

There is probably little I can write that hasn’t already been written about Paula Hawkins’ debut novel The Girl on the Train and in fact you may have already read it or seen the movie or both because if its popularity. But that still doesn’t stop me from writing more about my experience.

I remember reading and hearing about all of the hype over this psychological thriller when it was published in 2015 but ironically, that other “Girl” book, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn kept me from reading Hawkins’ book as I didn’t like Flynn’s book. So when the movie The Girl on the Train came out last year, I decided to get it from Netflix to see if the story enticed me into investing hours reading the book. I knew nothing about the plot at all so to say that the movie was a bit confusing to me was an understatement. I kept getting the three girls confused until I finally figured out how the female triangle fit together. The movie ending was a surprise but sold me on reading the book.

There is always so much more in a book than in a movie and this book was no exception. A third of the way through the book, I was still getting the girls confused with each other and had to several times look back to the chapter title to see which one I was reading about. But once I was able to keep them straight, I was enthralled with the story line and how all three lives were so interconnected.

As I read, I could picture in my mind the scenes from the movie and the faces of the actors who portrayed the characters. Seeing a movie before reading the book always biases the images you visualize but in this case, at least for me, it added pictorial context to the story. I found the more I read into the book I could not put it down and I think I finished it in less than three days.

As the outcome was carefully revealed in the last pages of the book, the scenes from the movie finale came barreling back to the forefront of my mind reminding me of how I had wondered watching the movie if the book would end the same way. In fact, reading the book made me want to go back and watch the movie again just to confirm.

For my classic last year, I chose to read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. When I mentioned to my wife that I had selected it to read, she was surprised that I had never read it before and vigorously encouraged me to do so as my next book. What prompted me to select this book was all the 2015 publicity upon the publication of Harper’s second book (although technically her first written), Go Set a Watchman. I recall there was so much negativity about her new book in comparison to her old one that I knew I needed to read Lee’s original classic.

Somehow I managed to get out of high school without having to read it although I was somewhat familiar with the story since I had seen the movie starring Gregory Peck. But I either didn’t see the entire movie, didn’t remember it completely, or the movie was different from the book because I was in for a number of surprises throughout my reading.

Whenever I read a classic novel, I always look for what it is about the writing that makes it a classic. Is it the wonderful prose that is used or the story itself or the life lessons that can be learned? In the case of this book, I would say it is “all of the above.”

The first half of the book helps us to get to know and understand the main characters in the book, which then prepares us for the infamous trial and all the rage surrounding it. I recalled from the movie the outcome of the trial but not what happened soon afterwards or the remarkable ending to the book. Finishing the book, I felt a sense of good feeling, another aspect of the book that no doubt makes it a classic.

So much has been studied and analyzed about this book that I am not going to begin to try to espouse something new or learned. Rather, I will say I very much enjoyed it and if anyone reading this post has not read it, I would highly encourage you to do so.

I hoped you enjoyed my book reviews this year. If you are interested in reading more reviews, you can also go back through my 2017 posts and find individual posts for books I so thoroughly enjoyed, that they deserved their own post. And if I piqued your interest enough to read one of these books, then my efforts have been worthwhile. But if you read one and thoroughly enjoy it as much as I did, then I will have brought pleasure to both of us. Because there is nothing better than a great book!

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