I’ve been curious about The Hunger by Alma Katsu for ages now but horror isn’t always my go to genre so I was holding off on it. And yet, when I saw her most recent novel revolved around the Titanic and supernatural connections between the Titanic and its sistership, the Britannica, I couldn’t resist.
The novel begins with Annie Hebbley, a Titanic survivor and former crew member, who has spent the last four years in an asylum, recovering from her experiences of that night. However, the doctor thinks she is recovered, and with World War I raging, he encourages her to answer her old friend’s summon with a lead on a job – after all, he expects there are many others that have a more genuine need of the bed.
And thus, after four years in seclusion, Annie rejoins the world, and finds herself on another ship, nearly identical to the one that sunk, except it has been converted into a hospital. Annie soon discovers that one of her new patients, Mark, is also a former passenger from the Titanic, a man she had some odd connection with during the short, doomed voyage, and she reads this as a sign.
The novel flashes back and forth between 1912 and 1916, with the majority of the time being spent in 1912. While Annie Hebbley is the main perspective, there are multiple character view points from different passengers, including a mix of fictional character and real life figures, such as Madeleine Astor. The biggest problem for me was that as I got further into the novel, I realized I didn’t particularly like any of the characters. Even Annie is much more complicated than I originally expected, and it didn’t take long for me to wonder if the characters who found her odd perhaps had a point.
On the one hand, the unreliable narrator piece and questions of what was truly going on were very well plotted and tied together; unfortunately, the novel played it all out a bit too slowly, so rather than being intrigued, it left me slightly less interested. It was only in the last 20% of the book, when the hinted at answers are finally revealed, that I was truly invested again. So overall, I thought the premise was intriguing, but I was definitely expecting more of a straight forward supernatural story vs. one about sanity and madness. I mean, the fact that one of the first lines in the novel is, “but there is something in her that is hospitable to madness” should have been a sign to me, but I wasn’t paying attention to the obvious clues.
Overall, this one wasn’t quite for me as it was more of a slow burn than I expected and I unfortunately hit a point where I thought every character was a horrible person and didn’t care about their fate. I mean, Annie is obsessed with Mark but everything about him screams asshole – I didn’t understand how he was the person set up as the love interest for any of the women in the novel. I am definitely still planning to read The Hunger at some point in the future, though, because I did like how everything came together, it just took a bit too long to get there.