I’m taking 2 stars off an otherwise 5 star book for two reasons:
One - The overabundance of foreshadowing.
Two - The iceberg.
A little foreshadowing in I’m taking 2 stars off an otherwise 5 star book for two reasons:
One - The overabundance of foreshadowing.
Two - The iceberg.
A little foreshadowing in a story about a well-known disaster is to be expected – especially those instances that were documented, such as people remarking on the bad luck of the ship almost hitting another one on her way out of the harbor.
But as seen here: no, in real life, people do not go around the day before the hurricane / volcano / fire / attack / etc. making ironic references to something they don’t know about yet and speaking in eulogies to each other.
As for the iceberg... OMG. The iceberg is a character.
Is a character.
And not only that – we see the thoughts of the iceberg bearing down on the ship, chuckling to itself evilly about how superior it is to humans and how it can’t wait to devour all those petty human hearts. …sooooo… The iceberg is a serial killer now? ‘Cause that’s what it sounds like here.
I could have understood the POV of the iceberg if it was presented as completely indifferent to Titanic, floating along just enjoying the sun and waves – but this relentless hunt presented here…? No. Just… no.
But besides those two points, I really enjoyed the rest of the book. We see an abundance of POV’s, from millionaires to paupers, and the use of shape poems towards the end to mimic the ship going down was an excellent way to bring the reader into the event.
I loved seeing all the different people, the backstories, the rising tension, and the cuts back and forth to just afterwards when the recovery effort was underway to identify those who didn’t survive. ...more
My take away from all this is to suddenly appreciate that, no matter how bad air travel is today, 18th century trans-Atlantic travel was WORSE (and th My take away from all this is to suddenly appreciate that, no matter how bad air travel is today, 18th century trans-Atlantic travel was WORSE (and that is saying something)...more
Davenport-Hines begins and ends his book with the iceberg.
It’s quite the book end to describe a natural process of how ice cracks from glaciers, form Davenport-Hines begins and ends his book with the iceberg.
It’s quite the book end to describe a natural process of how ice cracks from glaciers, forms icebergs, follows the sea currents, and, in the end, melts into nothing in the wide Saragossa Sea.
The contrast is startling between the quiet process of nature next to all the yelling and screaming and drama and tragedy and stupidity of the humans on board the Titanic.
Davenport-Hines describes everything he can find on every person on board that he can verify. Some people, like the businessmen of the White Star Line and the millionaire socialites having tea on board, have enough information to fill entire books by themselves. Others, such as the very low level workers on the boat and some of the 3rd class passengers, barely have enough information surviving to fill half a sentence.
But he gives a roughly equal amount of time to everyone who was in board.
He starts off discussing the people who decided to build the ship and the process that went into its design, with heavy emphasis on all the superficial touches that were added to make it the gaudiest floating hotel possible. To 21st century tastes, it probably would have been rather hideous to see such a hodgepodge of styles mixed together along with all that sheer amount of stuff.
He also makes a point of showing that, despite Titanic has been touted, before and after, as a unique ship, it was actually very similar to all of the other passenger ships of the time and was a product of the then current shipping industry. It was a new design, yes, but it was simply a bigger and newer version of a current pattern. Then he goes through the 1st, 2nd and 3rd class passengers, underling the theme of the American New Rich and how all of the class distinctions were based solely on money and how superficial that distinction actually was, since an American in 1st class probably had parents who had traveled 3rd class, and someone in 3rd class could have a child someday traveling in 1st class.
Stars upon thars, indeed!
He gets into the fast lives of the rich, and how the modern world of fast cars and traveling around the world on the drop of a hat was already in play as well as getting into the political and well as economic motives for why many people were cramming into 3rd class to get out of the Old World.
After working through all the passengers and describing event son the ship up until Sunday night, he doubles back and describes the workers on board, and how much drudgery was involved and the sheer hell of working in the boiler room.
The setup is for the most part well done, but he often gets ahead of himself, as he describes each person, mentioning as soon as he introduces a passenger if they will die in the sinking or going on to describe the department store they build in 1920 and their heart attack in 1930. It’s a bit jarring and messes with the flow, but it’s understandable since he is trying to cram in a complete, if mini, biography, on over 2,000 people.
When Davenport-Hines gets to the sinking, he pays close attention to the timing of when each lifeboat launched – there is actually quite a lot of debate over this, and he offers some good research and analysis regarding his own proposed timeline.
It’s then the inevitable tragedy, but he follows that up be describing what happened to the survivors and how many of them came to tragic, violent ends, many unable to ever recover.
Quick side note – the captain of the Carpathia and his radio operator both deserved a freaking parade for how they reacted 110% correctly to the SOS and the captain’s quick, decisive thinking in how to operate the rescue mission probably ensured that those in the lifeboats didn’t die as well.
Something that struck me was the worldwide reaction to the tragedy. There’s the unsurprising rumors flying about – similar to any other big event that will use the latest technology – anything from smoke signals to Twitter – to spread them, but what was surprising was the amount of crying and screaming and wailing and shock and open grief – and not just from people related to those who died.
It was surprising to see such emotion. It reminded me how, comparatively, peaceful the decades before 1912 had been. Flash forward a hundred years and the ensuing decades have, I think, made us a bit more jaded to tragedy.
So much attention is given to Titanic, and yet very little time is usually spent on the wreck itself – everyone just wants to see the glamour and dram So much attention is given to Titanic, and yet very little time is usually spent on the wreck itself – everyone just wants to see the glamour and drama, not the cold hard facts of decay.
The book’s photos resemble that of a crime scene, with constant Before and After, showing what, exactly, the bottom of a Fall looks like after all that vainglorious Pride. ...more
This was James Cameron’s main source for his film Titanic, and it shows, both in his imagery and writing, often not just sourced but out right copied This was James Cameron’s main source for his film Titanic, and it shows, both in his imagery and writing, often not just sourced but out right copied form here – pictures of the ship as it went down and lines such as “the sheets had never been slept in”.
The book is AMAZING. The writing style is this perfect type of up-to-the-second on the ground present-past tense that makes you feel as though you are right there, full off suspense of who will survive, and very well researched, chock-a-block full of primary sources, from pamphlets to tickets to newspapers to china plates to dresses to, of course, witness statements.
We follow the ship from inception to planning to building, to loading of passengers, to the voyage, to the fateful night, painstakingly detailed by the second, to the grisly aftermath, both that night, the next day, the days and weeks that followed, and what happened to everyone and to the ship and to her legacy in the years and decades that followed.
Very thorough, very well researched, excellently presented. Highly recommended to anyone looking to a great source of material on that tragic ship. ...more
Oh, ok, that explains a lot. Seeing the design of medieval ships clears up a lot about descriptions of / from the era of people constantly being in fe Oh, ok, that explains a lot. Seeing the design of medieval ships clears up a lot about descriptions of / from the era of people constantly being in fear for their lives when they crossed back and forth between England and Europe. These boats are bathtub toys! No, actually, I’ve seen bathtub toys with better buoyancy and keel designs.
Archeologists speculate the ability to make something that moves round on water was one of the tools that gave us a leg up (so to speak) over the other humanoids running around at the dawn of human history. However, it seems to have then taken tens of thousands of years to perfect that design into something that would tip over in a stiff breeze. Seriously, why did it take about 30 millennia to go from “boat” to “seaworthy”?
Gardiner puts together an excellent examination of boats from the 10th to 17th century from an archeological, historical and engineering viewpoint. ...more
The author's over use of ascribing thoughts, emotions, actions, motivations, and feelings to the people on board without any proof to back up his narr The author's over use of ascribing thoughts, emotions, actions, motivations, and feelings to the people on board without any proof to back up his narrative left me feeling as though I was reading a work of fiction rather than a real history book. It would have been a good history book in the mid-twentieth century (see 'Devil in Massachusetts) but today it just doesn't pas muster for good historical research. Also, the 'small town' metaphor was incredibly over used and tortured and I just didn't buy it - people in a small town know each other - and there were a lot of people on this boat who didn't. ...more
Hugh Brewster starts out by saying that in most examinations of the Titanic disaster, the ship is the main character and all the crew and passengers m Hugh Brewster starts out by saying that in most examinations of the Titanic disaster, the ship is the main character and all the crew and passengers merely supporting characters – here he flips it. Yes, Titanic is the main event, but the focus is on all the people on the boat – who they were, what they did before getting on the ship, why they happened to be on that voyaged, and what happened after to those that survived.
It’s a fascinating look at a world since past – a microcosm of the Edwardian age in almost every sense; one last glittering dinner party before the combination of hubris and 20trh century technology showed just how ugly it could get.
The most horrifying part of the book was that, by all accounts, most people didn’t know they were going to die right up until the moment they died – death was a truly unexpected blow.
I was a little annoyed that it was often unclear what Brewster’s sources were, and in the hands of a master writer it could have been more suspenseful who would live and who would die, but overall, a very good read. ...more
The trouble with this book is it has a distressingly tendency to (forgive me) go off course.
When the book focuses on Titanic and the owner J. Bruce Is The trouble with this book is it has a distressingly tendency to (forgive me) go off course.
When the book focuses on Titanic and the owner J. Bruce Ismay, it is a fascinating new examination of the one of the worst peacetime maritime disasters, filled with eye witness statements, interesting facts about the ship and her passengers and crew, and the fall out of what happened after the ship went under.
However, I did not pick up a book about Titanic in order to read about the life and works of Joseph Conrad. Seriously, the book contains more about the life and works of Conrad than I ever cared to know. It felt like filler as the author babbled about Conrad’s dad’s life as a Polish communist (or something) and gave summaries of the plots of most of Conrad’s book. Urgh.
Read the book for the eye witnesses describing what it was /really/ like to be there, and skip all the Conrad stuff. ...more