Novella Review: Last Off

Monday, 6 May 2013
Author: Laughton Chandler
Edition: St. Ambrose Press epub
Released: January 1st 2013
Pages: 108 approx.

Four young stowaways — illegal passengers, below even the 3rd class — find themselves on the R.M.S. Titanic, the grandest ocean liner in the world on her maiden voyage. At first unknown to each other, hailing from four different countries, they begin to learn about each others’ pasts as they bide their time in the bowels of the ship, united in their hopes of making a new life in America. When disaster strikes, what will become of them? Who, if any, will be able to escape the epic tragedy Walter Lord described as ‘the death of a small town’?

When I was contacted by the author to ask whether or not I wanted to review this novella, I wasn't sure I would. Yes, stories about the Titanic always intrigue me - because, ultimately, we know many of the characters fates and we want to see how the author handles such a delicate topic - but what made this one special enough that I would give it a go? Though, eventually, curiosity did get the better of me and I started reading - realising, after the final page, this book was completely what I expected and what I didn't.

I think I'll start with the criticism side of things first. One of the main issues I had with this book was the lack of action and terror. I suspected that the characters would all escape their make-shift "cabin" and end up fighting for their lives as the ship began sinking. I was expecting running, screaming, swimming, climbing... All four boys trying to get to the top-most deck of the ship. However, two of the characters left less than half-way through the book - to see what the all the noise was about - and didn't return (I'm sure I can guess what happened to them but I would have liked the author to have focused on those two more so I could have known exactly what they went through) while the other two were sealed in and trapped. The majority of the story follows the two trapped boys and how they cope being stuck. It just seemed to me like they acted too calm at times and not at all realistically for being in such a desperate situation.

However, I did find myself rooting for the boys from the first lurch and pitch of the ship. Especially Hugh... I really liked how the author created four very different, contrasting personalities and how each boy had a back story. Though the characters weren't quite developed enough in the respect that I empathised with them to an extreme level, I did feel for them deeply and want them to make it out alive. Of course, it did have a bittersweet ending but what else can you expect from a book set on the Titanic? I did have a lump in my throat by the end. The boys were so young - thirteen/fourteen - and all with such big dreams of making a better life for themselves in New York and they had to go through that. I just sat in silence for a moment once I had read the final page. The Epilogue crushed me.

I really like the significance of the title Last Off. It's perfect and goes with the mood of the book well. The scene with Hugh when he remembers what Paddy told him made me almost tearful. It was an extremely admirable and sweet thing to do. I definitely think I rooted for him the most but all the boys were likeable in their own way. Shy Max, book-loving Hugh, trusting Emile and the leader-like figure of the group, Paddy. So, overall, though this wasn't the best book, the ending did stir up enough emotion from me and the characters were likeable enough that I would say it wasn't a bad read at all. Bittersweet definitely, but not bad. 

Thanks go out to the author for providing me with a review copy of this book!

Happy Reading,
Rachel xoxo

PS: Have any of you read a book set on the Titanic? What did you think? Do you like the sound of this one?


  1. I have never read a book set in Titanic/any sunk ship cause I think the story will be very sad just like the movie... I'm not sure I will enjoy this kind of book. :( But I am glad that you ended up liking this book even though it was not realistic sometimes. :)

  2. @Kezia D - Yeah, it is a really delicate topic that can get quite emotional. I've only read two novels (well, one novel and a novella, I suppose) set on the Titanic but I do find books set around it really intriguing... I'm glad I ended up liking enough in the end too! :)


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