Book Review: Forget Me Not by Sue Lawson

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Forget Me Not is the fictional story of a family’s voyage on the infamous RMS Titanic. Released in March this year, it is perfectly timed to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the ship’s fatal maiden voyage. The story is alternately told by siblings Thomas and Evelyn Gilmore. Thomas is eager to begin a new life working with his father and uncle in America, and all the more excited that it is the Titanic taking them there. In contrast Evelyn is devastated to be leaving her life in England, and uneasy about their ocean journey.

I imagine it must be terribly difficult to write about the Titanic – to delicately balance the need for truth via impeccable historical accuracy, while maintaining a drama that is sensitive to the tragic nature of the event. Forget Me Not leans perhaps a little too much towards the former, with a lavish detailing of the ship’s environment and journey. It is clear that Lawson has done extensive research.

The drama in Forget Me Not comes not only from the fate of the Titanic‘s voyage, but from conflict and a mystery within the Gilmore family. Interestingly, Thomas’ parts of the story are told in third person, while Evelyn’s are in the first. This lends greater empathy towards her feelings, helping to build the sense of impending doom that the reader inevitably brings with them to this text. Lawson’s masterstroke, however, is the use of autograph book entries from the period, which add a particularly strong melancholic flavour.

Forget Me Not offers not only an account of the Titanic, but a look at emigration, health (in both historical and class contexts), and what life was like in the early 1900s, especially for those coming-of-age. Evelyn and Thomas struggle against the boundaries their parents set upon them. In a time when ‘teenagers’ didn’t exist, at what point is someone a child or an adult? This question is particularly crucial on board the Titanic, where the limited lifeboats were reserved for women and children first. With this breadth of themes and wealth of historical facts, it’s easy to envision the use of Forget Me Not in a middle grade classroom.

Black Dog Books

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