Inspired by entries discovered in the Southampton Dockmaster’s Log Book for 1912, The Master’s Tale tells the story of the Titanic in the Captain’s own words.
From the moment he leaves home on the first day of that final, fateful voyage, we are seeing the world through Captain Edward Smith’s eyes, meeting his officers, feeling his tension as Titanic prepares to sail.
Observing the passengers as he walks the ship, the Captain reflects on his life at sea, from recent events with their resounding consequences, back to his first trip with his half-brother, aboard a sailing ship bound for Hong Kong.
The death of a passenger on that first voyage has coloured his life, introducing him to the beautiful but unattainable Dorothea Lang. Forty years have passed, and yet she – or is it her ghost? – seems to be aboard Titanic, heading with him for New York…
William T Stead, famous journalist and medium, holds a séance aboard, racking up the Captain’s antagonism towards him. But as Smith dismisses the warnings, tensions mount within.
Memory takes him through turbulent waters to the happy island of his marriage, and back to more recent storms: a fateful collision with a Royal Navy cruiser, pressure from White Star, and this pre-retirement voyage.
Throughout his life he’s been a lucky man, but as time and coincidence come together in Titanic’s final, tragic hours, Captain Smith knows his luck has run out – and with it, the lives of his passengers…
‘Takes the familiar account of the last voyage of the Titanic and examines it from a fresh perspective’ – Rubery Book Award 2012
‘I found the author's portrayal of the Captain of the Titanic both realistic and sensitive. She has brought to life what it was to be a Master Mariner at the turn of the century.’ Joan Fallon, author of Daughters of Spain and Santiago Tales
The Master’s Tale – Maurice M on 11 October 2011
We all know where, 100 years ago, the master of the Titanic ended his voyage but here, at last, is an insight into where, as we might say today, he was coming from.
It’s subtitled “A Titanic Ghost Story*” but think quality interview –
“Steamship Master under pressure”, perhaps, with the by-line “Captain E.J.Smith was talking to Ann Victoria Roberts”.
As a shipmaster’s wife herself, AV could hear EJ’s every word – and more – and she tells the tale so very, very, well …
Maurice Meredith – volunteer crew member of Historic Steamship SHIELDHALL
* The subtitle has been changed in the revised edition after feedback from the Rubury Award
The Master’s Tale – Peach on 5 February 2012
I’ve long been a fan of Ann Victoria Roberts and her latest novel was eagerly-awaited. The story is evocative, her characters life-like and the ending full of drama. Unlike some of the other reviewers, I know very little of life at sea, but the story brings Captain Smith’s experiences alive and I’m intrigued to find out more. He is portrayed as a truly honourable man, with a strong sense of responsibility and the closing haunting images have stayed with me…unsettling and wonderful stuff.
The Master’s Tale – Yorkshireman on 18 Nov. 2011
I had postponed purchase, waiting for the ‘Kindle’ edition, but my curiosity got the better of me. I’m glad it did. It is a long time since I picked up a book and read it without a break except for meals, walking the dog, and half-a-night’s sleep. This novel brings its characters to life, providing the missing human element (even if, of course, fictional) where others writing about the Titanic story have provided only facts and speculation. One strength of the book is the clearly meticulous research that has also characterized the previous novels by this author, aided by her personal experiences (which I suspect merit a book in themselves). Another strength is the way in which the author effortlessly elicits in the reader immediate empathy for her central character. Once or twice I thought I would have liked to have stayed with a scene a little longer before starting a new chapter, but then I recognized the writer’s skill in setting the pace for the reader, which is just right. In fact the whole book has just the right balance of factual basis and fictional flair, and of narrative and emotion. It is eloquent and moving. It goes beyond being merely a hugely enjoyable book: it has powerful imagery of the life and times of the rush to steam and the early years of the 20th century, focusing especially on the pressures that accompany the responsibilities of command and leadership. The only complaint about it came from the dog, which was marched along at a fair old pace as I wanted to get back to the book. You will not regret buying this new novel.
The Master’s Tale – Island bookie on 8 April 2015
Author Ann Victoria Roberts was shown the Southampton dockmaster’s log entry showing how Master Mariner E.J. Smith arrived from New York as captain on the Olympic one day and only a couple of days later arrived again but this time as captain of the brand new Titanic. He then left once more for New York on the new “unsinkable” ship. The proximity of those dates in April 1912 whetted her appetite to learn more about this man which subsequently resulted in her writing a short story. Readers of that story encouraged her to conduct even more research and to write this historical novel.
Like her previous books, Louisa Elliott and Liam’s Story, Ann Victoria Roberts uses her impressive writing skills to weave a superb story around true events. The reader is left wondering just who is real and who is part of the fictional tale. Indeed, the author herself admits in the book’s Afterword that for her, too, the fictional characters are just as much alive as the real ones.
Using the backdrop of the five days between the Titanic’s departure from Southampton and the fatal collision with an Atlantic iceberg the author transports us back to the boyhood of Edward Smith when he longed to emulate his older brother, Joe, through his career on sailing ships around the world up to his graduation to steam ships then into his role as captain of large White Star ocean liners. Apart from his romance with the sea, Smith’s personal romances are also part of this gripping tale. The Master’s Tale is so real that it might almost be described as a biography of the Master of the Titanic. It is so well written that one is left wondering just how much is true and how much is a result of the author’s fertile imagination.
The Master’s Tale – maureen morgan, 2015
A familiar story that has been given a most unusual viewpoint through the eyes of Captain Smith. It has been extremely well researched with the factual accounts blending seamlessly into the storyline of the ill fated passengers, crew and, in this case, Captain Smith. Anyone who is, or has been, familiar with the heave of a deck will love this one! A most enjoyable read.
The Master’s Tale – Aunty Anne on 3 October 2011
Couldn’t put this down! Loved the film Titanic and it was so interesting to read this book and hear the story from another perspective. The author obviously did her homework on Captain Smiths background. He was definately under pressure from his company to perform – then produce superior results again and again. Something which all modern executives can identify with. I finished this book with huge sympathy and sadness for Captain Smith and his family. He has been much maligned for far too long and maybe this excellent book will help to restore his previously unblemished reputation. Well done, Ann Victoria Roberts – loved it!
The Master’s Tale – Rubery Award
This is a very timely book, produced in a professional manner. It takes the familiar account of the last voyage of the Titanic and examines it from a fresh perspective. It is told by the master of the vessel, Captain Edward Smith. The writer, who clearly has much specialist knowledge of the manner in which passenger ships are run, has seen the original log books of the master before the last tragic voyage, and shows a clear-sighted recognition of how these facts might have affected his decisions. The character of the master is strong and believable and the reader’s sympathies are constantly with him, as the novel takes us through his earlier life in a series of well-handled flashbacks. A small criticism is the claim on the front cover that it is a ghost story. [ref: original paperback edition: ‘The Master’s Tale – a Titanic ghost story’]
Although there are some references to a ghost on the ship, this seems a small and insignificant part of a powerful, strong story, and the claim is slightly misleading.
The Mater’s Tale – John Barrett Rose on 28 June 20
She evokes and handles characters splendidly, and there is no doubt in my mind that ladies will love this book.
She understands as few novelists do that a ship at sea is a small village afloat in a huge wilderness; cut off from the comforts of shore life and subject to the violence – sometimes irrational violence – of that hostile element, weather; and is always at risk from unforeseen dangers.
More to the point she understands enough to not have her seafarers making silly remarks about loving the sea. Seafarers do not love the sea. Seamen fear and respect the sea, with good reason.
She has chosen to write this novel as a fantasy, wherein the ghost of Captain Smith relives his life up until the loss of the Titanic. She presents Smith as a sympathetic character, and why not? This is a novel not a professional survey report. She can present him as she wishes.
Professional seamen are likely to hold a different opinion of the man.
However, the real weaknesses in this work lie in Mrs. Roberts ignorance of the actual working of ships; of who does what and why aboard ship; of who does what and why ashore; what must be done, what ought to be done, and what can safely be left undone. The various laws and regulations which must be obeyed.
This is a huge field, and it takes a seaman long to learn, and longer to master, to pass examinations upon; perhaps a lifetime spent without ever coming to the end of this ever evolving subject.
Mrs. Roberts uses her imagination to fill in the gaps in her knowledge, and this is where the novel falls apart. Her work will surely pass inspection by the average reader. It is not convincing to this old seafarer. A pity, I like her style.
The Master’s Tale – Mr. Nigel Quiney on 2 March 2012
I was given this book for Christmas and frankly did not think that the subject would interest me. However, to my amazement I was fascinated. Ann Victoria is a superb writer who draws the reader into this historical piece with great dexterity. I found myself fascinated by the descriptions of the early ships and their times leading finally to the Titanic. I thought that I knew enough about this ill-fated ship but I was intrigued to the bitter end. Well done.
The Master’s Tale – Miss C V Hanley on 5 October
“Truly a master yarn. So well written by Ann. She knows her subject, and really understands how a sailor thinks. For me this tale is rather close to home as an ex Cunard Officer, and Southampton Pilot, who once worked with pilot Brian Bowyer, son of George. I fully recommend this excellent read – Captain Sam Dobell, Southampton.”
In my own right I LOVE this book. It casts an entirely new angle on a much misunderstood man. Beautifully written, impeccably researched, The Masters Tale really does give a ‘new’ take on the Titanic tragedy… Fascinating, and important it is also a great read. Five Stars!
The Master’s Tale – Donna Mcghie on 3 Oct. 2011
The Master’s Tale is a fascinating insight into the mind of a much misunderstood man – the man who many people blame for the tragedy of the Titanic. Ann Victoria Roberts delves beneath the hype, and comes up with a well researched and authentic story giving us a new perspective on the story we all think we know. The story begins with events which happend prior to the tragedy, and gives an informed insight into the strains of a life dedicated to the safety and wellbeing of others at sea. Although the book is packed with historic detail, Ms Roberts also puts her considerable artistic imagination to good use by giving us a back story of a romance which serves to help us view Captain Smith as being vulnerable, and as flawed as any other man. In short we see him as a rounded human being, which serves to make the ending, (which we are all aware of, but seems to come as a shock regardless) almost heartbreaking. An exciting, informative, well written book – Ann Victoria Roberts is back with a vengeance!!
The Master’s Tale
Michael Smith on 6 August 2015
I could almost smell and feel the sea in its many moods. Captain Smith is a towering character…. a true Master of the Sea. Read it and enjoy!
By den on 4 August 2015
Another excellent book by Ann Victoria Roberts. I loved the different aspect of a story about the Titanic.
The Master’s Tale – Tessa Warburg on 5 Oct. 2011
This well-researched book is a must-read for anyone who is even remotely interested in the Titanic story. The novel is written from the point of view of the ghost of the Titanic’s master, Captain Edward Smith, as he looks back over that fateful voyage and, in doing so, looks back over his life.
Ann Victoria Roberts has not only done impeccable research into Captain Smith’s working life, she has also added a novelist’s insight into his private life, combined with a romance which could very well have happened. And she has vividly brought to light the real pressures Smith faced on this trip and, in doing so, rescued a reputation blemished by the unreasonable blame so often heaped on him in the past.
I think this book will appeal to the many readers interested in the Titanic tragedy but, more than that, I think it will have a special appeal to mariners for its unusual insight into the pressures facing the master of a vessel – and in particular one in charge of a ship which was a legend before she even started on her fateful voyage.
Readers who enjoy historical fiction, and those who delight in a romantic story based on a well-known character’s life, will also appreciate this story. It is Ann Victoria Roberts’ fifth novel, and many readers may wish to know about her earlier books, using the links given. Louisa ElliottDagger LaneMorning’s GateMoon Rising
The Master’s Tale – Joan Fallon on 19 March 2012
The Master’s Tale is a fascinating and gripping read. For those of us who know nothing about the intricacies of sail and steam ships it is an eye opener and puts the tragedy of the sinking of the Titanic in a completely different light.
I found the author’s portrayal of the Captain of the Titanic both realistic and sensitive. She has brought to life what it was to be a Master Mariner at the turn of the century. Well worth reading.
The Master’s Tale – Deanna on 31 October 2011
A completely different take on the Titanic story. Great research and unknown events weaved together to make a fictionalised ghost story of Captain Smith. How being in the wrong place at the wrong time can lead to a catalogue of disasters. Although written by a woman this is a book which men will also enjoy as it goes into so much maritime detail. I understand the writer is married to a ship’s master so has first-hand knowledge of nautical terms and the perils of the sea. This is a great read which I can recommend
The Master’s Tale – Dave Birch on 8 December 2012
A very well researched book written by a lady that knows this subject well.
This is not just another Titanic book but one that takes the form of the Captains story, his life and how he earned the position of Master of the Titanic and the pressures that the job must bring.
It is a must have if you enjoy anything nautical and has some great local detail if you live in the Southampton/Solent area.
The Master’s Tale – Cookie on 10 October 2011
I have been eagerly awaiting Ann Victoria Roberts new novel, having enjoyed her earlier books so much. I was not disappointed. A name and a story from history, so familiar to us all, are brought to life vividly with her wonderful descriptions of events, places and characters. It is a fantastic read and when finished, it makes you take stock of what’s important in the hectic lives that we all think we should be living. Thank you Ann, for another great book and please don’t leave it so long before your next one!
The Master’s Tale – Antimatar on 12 August 2015
I was recommended this book by a family member and didn’t think it would be ‘my type’ of book… how wrong I was! It was brilliant; well researched and so compelling. I loved the fact that the Titanic story was written with a completely different slant which proved fascinating and thought provoking. I would recommend it wholeheartedly.
The Master’s Tale – Sally S on 4 October 2011
Sat up until 1.30 this morning to finish this wonderful but tragic story. So atmospheric, the feeling of impending doom building throughout. The descriptions are so vivid, I was almost there.
I loved this vision of Capt Smith, the magnificence of the great liners, the descriptions of life on the high seas (and on land) at this time.
With Capt Smith’s life so beautifully and imaginatively written about, how I wished for a different ending!