“The Poseidon Adventure” by Paul Gallico
My owning a copy of Paul Gallico’s “The Poseidon Adventure” in the first place is kind of a joke.
For our wedding, my husband and I used small piles of books as our centerpieces, so I got to go on a massive (and exhilarating and so much fun) expedition of Chicago’s used book stores to find titles that we loved, that defined us, and heck — made us laugh. For a brief moment, there was even an outrageous L. Ron Hubbard sci-fi novel that almost got used, until we realized people might not find it as funny as we did. From “Jane Eyre” to Stephen King, our wide-ranging literary tastes were present.
Among these piles was “The Poseidon Adventure,” which I just thought was funny. I hadn’t read it. Heck, I’ve never seen the movie — or the supposedly awful 2005 remake. For some reason, though many of the extra books we bought got donated back or given to friends post-wedding, this one hung on and has been on the bookcases ever since.
I picked it up the other day to read it — since it had also made it’s way onto the list of 30 books I own and have never read.
Omigosh you guys. I couldn’t put it down. I tore through these pages, needing to know what would become of these characters, and feeling the claustrophobia and terror they were feeling along the way. They’re not an incredibly likable bunch, but they’re all familiar folks; the family that looks to have it all on the outside, the heroic priest, the silly dancer girl, the bitchy former starlet, the cranky old lady. As they race through a deadly and gory labyrinth of bodies, upside down ship equipment, stragglers, and the unknown around every single corner just hoping to get to the one place they think they might just have a chance at being rescued, knowing the ship could just sink any moment and there might be any happy ending to any of this at all, this breathless reader was hooked.
This is a heck of a good read, I’m not even kidding.
I don’t mark up or earmark my books, but I folded down the pages a few times in this one at passages and parts I want to re-read and will never forget, most of which involve the previously mentioned family that appears to have it all. Bad stuff happens to this family along the way, and there’s one scene where the Mother (Jane) unleashes on her husband after a huge and life-changing loss, and it’s some tragically glorious writing. It’s the kind of writing that, if put into the movie, might get an audience to cheer.
Now, I find myself rabid to watch the movie. I cannot wait to see what changes were made in the transition to the big screen — because there are a couple of things about the book I can’t imagine a big 70s Hollywood blockbuster including; namely, a lot of politically incorrect talk, a rape, and let’s just say the children don’t all make it to the end, which seems quite un-Hollywood.
(Also, Shelley Winters. ‘Cause really.)
I’m adding Paul Gallico’s other two novels: “The Snow Goose” and “Lili” to my (endless) list of books to look for when I’m out and about. “The Poseidon Adventure” far exceeded my expectations, and it’s largely due to his skill with creating people who are flawed, sometimes terrible, and incredibly real.
Damn, this is a good book. It was a thousand times better than I expected, and I wish I could read it again for the first time. You can probably get a copy for a buck at a used bookstore somewhere near you, and it’s worth twenty times that.
I’m done raving, I promise. I’m off to hunt down the movie.