Roxanne's Reviews > How to Survive the Titanic: The Sinking of J. Bruce Ismay

How to Survive the Titanic by Frances Wilson
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May 24, 12

bookshelves: titanic
Read from May 19 to 24, 2012 — I own a copy

Ever since my Titanic fascination started, I've had a soft spot for Ismay. I felt he was tormented by the American press and thought it extremely unfair to put all the blame on his shoulders. Yet if he had "died like a hero," as other men did on the Titanic (did they even have a choice?), he possibly wouldn't have had his name tarnished as it was when living, by the press.

And so goes the story of J. Bruce Ismay. I was excited to finally purchase this book. Ever since I saw it, I was dying to get hands on it. Finally a book to explain Ismay without biased words. Well 'How to Survive the Titanic' was a tad disappointing for me. A whole chapter was dedicated to another author and his fictional characters that mirror Ismay's "sinking reputation" and I had little to no interest in reading about this author. Judging by the title, I thought I was reading an historical account of the Titanic's scapegoat. For the most part it was but the author got offtrack a bit.

There could have been more about Ismay and less about everyone else. While the likes of Lightoller, who was defending his boss (Ismay) and his company (White Star Line), the book itself seemed more about the Titanic saga than the man who jumped into a lifeboat to save his own life. The book also mentioned an ill-fated relationship that never seemed to go beyond letters between Ismay and Mrs. Thayer (who was a 1st class passenger on Titanic along with her husband and son. The husband died and she was reunited with her son on the Carpathia.)

There was much more to the man than being the owner of the RMS Titanic. The man who eventually ruled to have only 16 lifeboats and 4 canvas-sided lifeboats (which exceeded the outdated British regulations of the time). The ship herself was designed to be a lifeboat. But it was proven that man cannot conquer nature, and so occurred the "act of god". The accident of the Titanic was one that just happened to damage the ship in a way that was guaranteed to founder her. No one, not even the designers, could fathom such a fatal blow.

Ismay was a contributor to nonprofits. But you're more likely to hear about the "coward" Ismay than the charitable Ismay. This isn't to say the man didn't have his faults, for he did, but don't we all? I feel he was unfairly branded a coward while the men who died labeled heroes.
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