Historical Corner

Historical novelist Angela Reich

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Each week, reporter and history-lover Mariana Dominguez visits a historical location on the South Shore or attends a local lecture on historical topics. This week, she spoke with historical novelist Angela Reich about her book “Shipwreck of Hopes,” as well as what she is currently working on.

Angela Reich is a meticulous researcher. A retired teacher with a doctorate in British literature, the Brightwaters resident said writing her novel “Shipwreck of Hopes” was a natural culmination of her interest in history, and the South Shore. For the past 11 years, Reich has been a docent at the Fire Island Lighthouse and during that time, she has conducted extensive research on South Shore history and the many heartbreaking shipwreck stories in the area. “Shipwreck of Hopes,” which was released in 2018, tells the story of the sinking of the Elizabeth in 1850. Reich said she chose to write a narrative about this particular wreck because it was historically significant in multiple ways. Firstly, author and scholar Margaret Fuller was on the ship and drowned along with her family. Fuller was an important literary figure whose peers included Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. In addition, the public outcry from the sinking gave way to improvements in lifesaving systems and equipment. Reich noted that at the time of the ship’s sinking, the lifesaving procedure was an unmanned system with 10 lifesaving huts along the South Shore beaches, filled with equipment.

It took Reich about five years to write the novel. All of the characters in the book are meticulously researched and based on real individuals. 

“I spent time on who the people were, the local Long Islanders who were involved in the rescue attempt and involved in the aftermath,” Reich said.

Currently, Reich is working on a second historical novel about the aftermath of the wreck and the people involved. She became particularly interested in the wealthy John D. Johnson, of Louisiana, who moved to New York City and had an estate in East Islip. Johnson used his fortune to bring up a marble statue of John C. Calhoun that was to be put on the South Carolina Capitol Building. The statue had been in the hull of the Elizabeth and sank with the ship. She has been working on the upcoming novel for two years and said that it will be at least another year of researching and writing before it is out in the world.

“I really appreciate where I live now so much more because I did all this research on the South Shore of Long Island,” Reich said of her work. “I appreciate our own history here. I appreciate the people who came and lived here and how tough they were.”

Reich is scheduled for presentations at the Islip Arts Council Store, South Shore Mall, on Saturday, Aug. 20. Visit angelareich.com for more information.

“Shipwreck of Hopes” is available at the Fire Island Lighthouse, the Islip Arts Council store at the South Shore Mall, Long Island Maritime Museum in Sayville, Theodore’s Books in Oyster Bay, Sagtikos Manor gift shop, and on Amazon.

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