The Ghost of the Mary Celeste

 
9780297870333: The Ghost of the Mary Celeste

A mystery unsolved to this day A mystic who confounds the cynics A writer looking for the story that will make his name A ghost ship appears in the mist. To the struggling author Arthur Conan Doyle, it is an inspiration. To Violet Petra, the gifted American psychic, it is a cruel reminder. To the death-obsessed Victorian public, it is a fascinating distraction. And to one family, tied to the sea for generations, it is a tragedy. In salons and on rough seas, at seances and in the imagination of a genius, these stories converge in unexpected ways as the mystery of the ghost ship deepens. But will the sea yield its secrets, and to whom? Intricate, atmospheric, and endlessly intriguing, The Ghost of the Mary Celeste is a spellbinding exploration of love, loss and the fictions that pass as truth.

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Review:

About the Writing of The Ghost of the Mary Celeste, by Valerie Martin

I first read about the ghost ship the Mary Celeste when I was in fifth grade – I think it must have been an article in the Weekly Reader, the children’s newspaper my school subscribed to and which I looked forward to with modest excitement every Friday. I’m sure the article barely sketched out the story - a ship sighted drifting at sea in some sort of trouble, with no sailor at the helm; the boarding of the Mary Celeste by the anxious crew of a passing ship; the discovery that there was no one aboard; the evidence that the crew had left on the ship’s boat and in a hurry; and the perplexing problem - the mystery - of their motive for abandoning the ship, which was fully provisioned and in seaworthy condition. “Fit,” as one of the salvers would testify in the salvage hearing at Gibraltar, “to sail round the world.”

A few years ago, by accident and I’m still not sure where, I learned that the missing crew of the Mary Celeste included the captain’s wife and his baby daughter. This detail caught my attention because I was under the impression that sailors considered women aboard ships bad luck. I began some superficial research about the subject – trawling a few nets in the wake of the Mary Celeste, and quickly uncovered a world I’d never dreamed of.

Throughout the 19th century, women regularly sailed on the vessels that plowed the seas, and it was not uncommon for children to be born aboard ship. Especially on whalers, which would be out at sea for years on end, wives took the opportunity of going along with their husbands. One whaling captain delivered all five of his children on his ship, and some of these learned to walk on a deck before they put their little feet on land. The captain’s wife and family were such an ordinary component of seagoing commerce that the sailors had a name for ships with a wife and children in the aft cabin – they called them “hen frigates.”

When a captain married, the couple might combine his business with their pleasure and take a honeymoon trip. This was the case with Capt. Benjamin Briggs and his wife Sarah Cobb Briggs, who sailed to Genoa shortly after their marriage in Marion, Massachusetts. In the fall of 1872, Benjamin Briggs purchased a one/fifth interest in a newly fitted ship and signed on to sail her to Messina, a trip that would take about three months. Sarah Briggs, who disliked sailing, decided to join him, taking their two-year-old daughter along. As she wrote to her mother-in-law, “Going to sea in itself considered is anything but agreeable, at least to me, but if Benja must go I would gladly go when I could.” On October 26, having shipped ahead her melodeon, sewing machine, two boxes of music books, toys, and clothes for herself and her daughter Sophia, she took the train to New York and joined her husband at Pier 8 to board their ship the Mary Celeste.

Before long, investigation of the events that followed turned up an unexpected name: Arthur Conan Doyle.

The future creator of Sherlock Holmes was a boy when the Mary Celeste was recovered and doubtless followed the news stories about the salvage trial in Gibraltar that appeared in the British and American press. Twelve years later, when he was a struggling young doctor in Edinburgh, Doyle published a story in the Cornhill magazine that purported to be a true account of the lone survivor of the Mary Celeste. Though Doyle altered the name of the ship and changed the captain’s name, the public’s imagination was fired by this tale and to this day certain details entirely invented by the young Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle, who longed to make his way as a writer, continue to be attached to new accounts, fictional and otherwise, about the famous ghost ship, the Mary Celeste.

Even a superficial study of the life of Arthur Conan Doyle bangs up against the 19th century Spiritualist movement, which was spawned in upstate New York and quickly spread across the country and abroad. The craze for mediums, séances, spirit writing, spirit photography, spirit guides, table turning, apparitions, and the materialization of ectoplasm excited the interest of a credulous public, as well as an alarming number of prominent and intelligent men and women. Horace Greeley, Alfred Russel Wallace, William James and his brother Henry James, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Mary Todd and Abraham Lincoln and even Queen Victoria indulged in séances and clairvoyant lectures. Many of these notables were ultimately disabused of their fascination, but Arthur Conan Doyle became a committed Spiritualist. He gave up writing and spent the last five years of his life traveling the world to spread the good news that life is continuous and that the dead only wait for our attention to make themselves known again.

These three elements, a ship found sailing without a crew, a famous writer on the verge of enormous success, and the rise of an unorthodox and heretical religious fervor, began to work in my imagination, and I knew I was on the track of an historical novel. In my researches the fantastic and the banal, the absurd and the tragic seemed woven into an intricate and radiant fabric, one spun from facts and fictions in much the same way everyday life spins out, one story generating another, a thread disappearing in one corner and reappearing surprisingly near the center.

About the Author:

Valerie Martin is one of America's finest contemporary novelists, best known for her Orange Prize-winning Property and also the award-winning Mary Reilly, filmed by Stephen Frears. She is the daughter of a sea captain but has never been to sea. www.valeriemartinonline.com

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Descrizione libro Orion Publishing Co, United Kingdom, 2014. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. A mystery unsolved to this day A mystic who confounds the cynics A writer looking for the story that will make his name A ghost ship appears in the mist. To the struggling author Arthur Conan Doyle, it is an inspiration. To Violet Petra, the gifted American psychic, it is a cruel reminder. To the death-obsessed Victorian public, it is a fascinating distraction. And to one family, tied to the sea for generations, it is a tragedy. In salons and on rough seas, at seances and in the imagination of a genius, these stories converge in unexpected ways as the mystery of the ghost ship deepens. But will the sea yield its secrets, and to whom? Intricate, atmospheric, and endlessly intriguing, The Ghost of the Mary Celeste is a spellbinding exploration of love, loss and the fictions that pass as truth. Codice libro della libreria LIB9780297870333

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Valerie Martin
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Descrizione libro Orion Publishing Co, United Kingdom, 2014. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. A mystery unsolved to this day A mystic who confounds the cynics A writer looking for the story that will make his name A ghost ship appears in the mist. To the struggling author Arthur Conan Doyle, it is an inspiration. To Violet Petra, the gifted American psychic, it is a cruel reminder. To the death-obsessed Victorian public, it is a fascinating distraction. And to one family, tied to the sea for generations, it is a tragedy. In salons and on rough seas, at seances and in the imagination of a genius, these stories converge in unexpected ways as the mystery of the ghost ship deepens. But will the sea yield its secrets, and to whom? Intricate, atmospheric, and endlessly intriguing, The Ghost of the Mary Celeste is a spellbinding exploration of love, loss and the fictions that pass as truth. Codice libro della libreria LIB9780297870333

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Descrizione libro Condizione libro: New. Publisher/Verlag: Orion Publishing Group | Was it possible that the book he had before him was an original document, squirreled away for sixteen years? Or was it simply another hoax, the desperate ploy of a poor, ambitious young writer, just as he had been, who schemed, just as he had schemed, to captivate the fickle attention of the public by tying a painter to the taffrail of a famous mystery ship? A ghost ship appears in the mist. To a struggling author called Arthur Conan Doyle, it is an inspiration. To Violet Petra, the most infamous mystic of her age, it is a reminder. To the death-obsessed Victorian public, it is a preoccupation. And to one family, tied to the sea for generations, it is a tragedy. In salons and rough seas, seances and the mind of a genius, Valerie Martin looks behind the myth and brings an extraordinary story to life. Engrossing and mesmerising, intricate and endlessly intriguing, THE GHOST OF THE MARY CELESTE is an examination of love, nature and the fictions that pass as truth | Format: Paperback | Language/Sprache: english | 424 gr | 234x145x24 mm | 320 pp. Codice libro della libreria K9780297870333

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Descrizione libro Weidenfeld & Nicolson Orion Publishing Group Jan 2014, 2014. Taschenbuch. Condizione libro: Neu. Neuware - dung> 320 pp. Englisch. Codice libro della libreria 9780297870333

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Valerie Martin
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Descrizione libro Weidenfeld & Nicolson Orion Publishing Group Jan 2014, 2014. Taschenbuch. Condizione libro: Neu. Neuware - dung> 320 pp. Englisch. Codice libro della libreria 9780297870333

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