Angela's Reviews > Voyagers of the Titanic: Passengers, Sailors, Shipbuilders, Aristocrats, and the Worlds They Came From

Voyagers of the Titanic by Richard Davenport-Hines
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Jan 21, 2012

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bookshelves: ala-2012
Read from February 25 to March 02, 2012 — I own a copy

This book had a few rough chapters, but I liked it overall. The chapters on the actual sinking and the aftermath were excellent. I loved the framing technique of first discussing the formation of the iceberg, and on the last page dealing with where the berg finally melted. But this is a very slow read. It's much more a history than a novel. The book's first 3 chapters, about the backgrounds and lives of the passengers in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd class, almost immediately bog down in minutiae. It seemed like every single passenger got at least a sentence, even if all that is known about that passenger was their name and point of departure. I think that's a little much. Some tables or graphs would have been immensely helpful in these chapters. That way, he could have addressed everyone, while being able to focus the text on more interesting passengers. Another chart would have been useful when, in the last chapter, there is a whole paragraph of him explaining the percentages of how many people survived from each class and each gender. Some things are just more effectively expressed through a graph than a long, confusing paragraph.
Another slight issue is that he assumes a certain base knowledge of events and people connected with the Titanic. Some people he mentions merely to say that they aren't as bad as everybody else says they are, which can be confusing, if you didn't know what everybody else was saying in the first place.
I would have loved more exposition of the inquiries. That section seemed curiously cursory. Only two of the people who testified are quoted, making me curious about the testimonies of those who are not. Maybe if I want whole transcripts I should look those up for myself, but surely just a few more quotes wouldn't have been that hard to incorporate in this section?
But on the whole, I learned a lot I didn't know about the Titanic, which is what I was hoping for. It's hard to find something new to say about such an iconic event, and I think Davenport-Hines manages that. That's not nothing.
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Quotes Angela Liked

“The first chap we said was loafing, until he died. That's nearly always the verdict on a sailing ship, anyway. A man is invariably 'mouching' until he dies, and then we say, "Oh, he must have been bad after all." --Charles Lightoller”
Richard Davenport-Hines, Voyagers of the Titanic: Passengers, Sailors, Shipbuilders, Aristocrats, and the Worlds They Came From

“Ritzonia" was the epithet coined by Bernard Bernson, who sold Italian pictures to American millionaires, to describe the unreal, mortifying sameness of their luxury. "Ritzonia," he wrote in 1909, "carries its inmates like a wishing carpet from place to place, the same people, the same meals, the same music. Within its walls you might be at Peking or Prague or Paris or London and you would never know where.”
Richard Davenport-Hines, Voyagers of the Titanic: Passengers, Sailors, Shipbuilders, Aristocrats, and the Worlds They Came From
tags: travel


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