Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Women & Children First

Rate this book
She was the most magnificent ship ever built, yet on the eve of 14th April the Titanic sank in the North Atlantic, leaving the lucky ones floating in wooden rowing boats, and the rest struggling for their lives in the icy water.

The sinking of the Titanic not only steals lives but blows apart the futures of those who survive: Reg, a handsome young steward who works in the first class dining room: Annie, a gifted Irishwoman who is travelling to America with her four children: Juliette, a titled English lady who is pregnant and unmarried: American millionaire George Grayling and his wife Margaret who are trapped in a poisoned marriage; and a mystery passenger who never shows her face in public.

As each of them tries to come to terms with the aftershock of the fateful might, they must begin to rebuild their lives. But how can life ever be the same again when you've heard thousands of people dying in the water around you?

Rich with authentic historical detail, this unforgettable novel is sure to captivate fans of Downton Abbey, Rachel Hore, and Sarah Blakes The Postmistress.

Will coincide with the release of Julian Fellowes' four-part Titanic mini-series and James Camersons 3d Titanic.

Huge coverage expected for the centenary of the Titanic and major publicity for Women & Children First

Exclusive extra material includes original photographs from onboard the ship and the extraordinary facts behind the Titanic.

480 pages, Paperback

First published March 29, 2012

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Gill Paul

51 books1,429 followers
Gill Paul is the bestselling author of eleven historical novels, many of them describing real women she thinks have been marginalized or misjudged by historians. They include THE MANHATTAN GIRLS, about Dorothy Parker and three friends with whom she played bridge; THE COLLECTOR'S DAUGHTER, about Lady Evelyn Herbert, the first person to enter Tutankhamun's tomb in modern times; JACKIE AND MARIA (retitled THE SECOND MARRIAGE in the UK) about Maria Callas and Jackie Kennedy's rivalry over Aristotle Onassis; two bestselling novels about the Romanovs – THE SECRET WIFE and THE LOST DAUGHTER – as well as WOMEN AND CHILDREN FIRST, which was shortlisted for the 2013 RNA Epic Novel of the Year award, NO PLACE FOR A LADY, shortlisted for a Love Stories award, and ANOTHER WOMAN’S HUSBAND, about links you might not have suspected between Wallis Simpson and Princess Diana. Her novels have reached the top of the USA Today, Toronto Globe & Mail and kindle charts, and been translated into twenty-one languages.
Gill also writes historical non-fiction, including A HISTORY OF MEDICINE IN 50 OBJECTS, and she speaks at libraries and literary festivals on subjects ranging from Tutankhamun to the Romanovs.
Gill lives in London, where she is working on her thirteenth novel, and she swims daily in an outdoor pond.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
1,670 (41%)
4 stars
1,547 (38%)
3 stars
686 (16%)
2 stars
116 (2%)
1 star
35 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 292 reviews
Profile Image for Misty Marie Harms.
559 reviews281 followers
March 25, 2022
First, let's talk about this beautiful cover. It is simply gorgeous!

On this journey back in time, we are told the story of Titanic from revolving viewpoints. From a first class passenger on down to a member of the crew, we are a witness to the courageous acts and the fear that grips the dying. I love that the stories didn't stop there. The ones that survive that horrifying night, their stories carry on. We stay with our survivors all the way to the end. It was a beautiful, sometimes heartbreaking read. Bring your tissues!
Profile Image for Maureen.
314 reviews66 followers
August 6, 2022
I have always been intrigued by the stories of the Titanic, It is hard to image what these people went through. The unsinkable ship, what happened? So many things went wrong.
This book did not disappoint. I have read many books from this author and enjoyed them.
We follow the stories of passengers and crew members on that tragic night.
The characters just came to life on the page.
I really like how Gill Paul continued the story, how the survivors went on with their lives in New York. Many grief stricken of what they should have done but didn’t do. The spilt second decisions that we made. What could they have done to make a difference.
Highly recommend.
Profile Image for Erin.
2,815 reviews494 followers
January 9, 2023
This had been on my TBR " what I am reading next shelf" for so much time, I cannot remember how long. But I am smashing those 2023 reading resolutions and making sure to address my backlog.

Women & Children First is not my favorite book by this author. Yep, going to say that straight up and out in the open. I appreciated the concept of giving readers a Titanic story that begins on the ship but is really focused on how the survivors dealt with the aftermath. There are multiple characters that are focused on- Reg, an employee of White Star, Annie, an Irish immigrant and 3rd class passenger, and Juliet, a first-class passenger escaping a possible scandal. Of the three, I certainly gravitated to Annie the most as she speaks for those that lost children on the Titanic. I read the book in one sitting and I appreciated the historical photos and notes at the back of the novel and for that, I end up giving the book a 3-star rating.


Goodreads review published 09/01/22
Profile Image for Teresa.
515 reviews111 followers
May 13, 2018
I enjoyed this book. It begins on the Titanic and then follows some of the survivors who arrived in New York.
The part written on the Titanic was great reading. The lead up and the sinking itself were done extremely well. It dipped slightly after this and the main character we're following, Reg, has so much happen to him, at times it stretched incredulity a bit. Annie, another character we continue on with had a bit of a boring story I thought. There was quite a bit of repetition in it.
However, over all it was a good read and I loved the Epilogue at the end. Always nice when an author wraps up loose ends we get to see what happened to them all.
Profile Image for Nikki Bywater.
406 reviews13 followers
June 20, 2012
Women & Children First is a touching tale, about what it must have been like to survive the sinking of the Titanic.

Reg Parton is a good looking young steward, who works in the first class dining room. Reg dreams of one day running his own small restaurant.

Lady Juliette Mason-Parker is an English lady who is pregnant and unmarried. She is travelling to conceal her pregnancy in fear of been ostracised from society.

Annie McGeown is a mother of four, travelling with her children to join her husband in New York to start a new life living there from Ireland.

American millionaire George Grayling and his wife Margaret who have an unhappy marriage and George would like a divorce.

When the Titanic sinks on that fateful day back in 1912, in the North Atlantic, on its maiden voyage Reg, Juliette, Annie and George lives will be shook to the core. The lives of which they have known will change forever. They survived the Titanic, but will they be able to rebuild and survive the lives they now find themselves living?

This is a really moving story that will really touch your heart. The author Gill Paul says that she wanted to explore what it felt like to be on the Titanic and to survive. The main characters are all invented. The main character Reg was inspired by a photograph of a very handsome young man, who was a steward in first class and who died. In real life nothing is known of what happened to him and little is known of his background. Gill Paul created the character of Reg with this picture in her mind. Gill Paul’s characters may be fictitious, but many of their experienced are based on real events, which Gill Paul as researched. As a reader you really do get a feel of what it must be like, the book is excellently written so that it creates the build up and creates atmosphere and emotion of what it must have felt like to be on board, and then to have survived such a terrible disaster.

There is also a mystery theme to the story, which gets you as a reader more intrigued in the story. The chapters are written in such a way that leaves the reader in suspense and anticipation that makes you not want to stop reading and to carry on reading to find out what will happen.

I really enjoyed reading this novel by Gill Paul, it is a superb novel.
Profile Image for Ellie.
25 reviews
October 16, 2012

I really enjoyed this book; not only because I have a large interest in the Titanic but because it was so beautifully written with a good level of character development, I found myself caring for the characters and becoming anxious about their fates, but this is all down to how lovely the writing was.

The story follows the lives of four characters aboard the Titanic and how their lives are affected after this. I can understand that some people would be put off by the idea of constant switches between character perspective, as a chapter is dedicated to one particular character and although usually I would have found this annoying I feel that Gill Paul pulled it off well.

The lives of these characters are stark opposites of each other; Reg is a steward in first class, Annie a third class Irish woman travelling with her four children, a first class man named Mr Grayling and Juliette a first class, unmarried, pregnant woman travelling with her mother. This is an excellent guide to understanding what the Titanic was like for all degrees of passengers aboard the ship and also helps the reader to relate to the characters. I, for one, feel that I grew attached to them because of the way they are portrayed. The lives of the all the characters actually entwine during multiple intervals throughout the novel which is not only interesting to discover their views of each other but also to contrast their lives and make the book seem more connected than full of separate characters.

All in all, a great read, I would recommend to any Titanic fan or anyone who is interested in life during 1912.
Profile Image for Maggie Bermann.
215 reviews6 followers
October 1, 2013
strangely i enjoyed this book..yes we all know what happens in the end, but this book took the story further by asking what happened next.. though story purely fictional and soem bits were raised eyebrows at.. it was quite a good wee read!
Profile Image for Graceann.
1,165 reviews
April 12, 2013
I thought there couldn't be a new angle on the Titanic story, but I was mistaken. Here, Gill Paul takes a select group of characters and explores how they deal with surviving the disaster. It makes for much more interesting reading than I initially thought it would. How do you live with the memories of struggling for your life and watching others die?

This is largely an ensemble piece, but there is one character who gets more ink than the others, Reg. I think that this is appropriate given that he interacted with all of the rest and that a compelling storyline has been created for him. This started out being a three-star read for me, because I thought I knew what was coming from about page 200 and I found that disappointing and cliched. As it turned out, however, I was quite wrong and got a big surprise. I love it when an author does that, and it lifted my rating to five stars just for sheer enjoyment and appreciation of her ability to provide the unexpected.

Written in an accessible yet classy style, with characters you actually care about (I was especially grateful for the "what happened later" epilogue) and a compelling set of storylines, I thought this novel was a winner. I'm now interested in other pieces from this author.
Profile Image for Alison.
126 reviews31 followers
April 11, 2019
I officially have a new favourite author (to add to the ever growing list). When I picked this book up in a book sale, I never thought I would have enjoyed it so much and in fact, I do not think I would have purchased it, if it was not related to Titanic. I do not know what it was which made me hesitant but you should not judge a book by its author or cover as this pleasantly surprised me.

I have always been fascinated with the story of the Titanic and really enjoyed the description of the ship. It looks like the author did a fair amount of research on the ship, some of its passengers and events related to the sinking. The first part of the book is dedicated to the journey and tragic sinking while the second part is based on the lives of four survivors and how they coped with the tragedy, bereavement and their new life in New York. At some point, the lives of these four survivors intertwine and I like how the author managed to incorporate a bit of mystery, particularly at the end. Definitely a page turner, full of likeable and fascinating characters. Will most certainly look up other Gill Paul novels :)
Profile Image for Erin.
196 reviews
March 12, 2017
This book makes you think. To be lucky enough to survive a tragedy such as the sinking of the titanic, yet having to live on with guilt and remorse. Sometimes you can't escape what life has in store for you.
Profile Image for Steph LaPlante.
298 reviews5 followers
June 28, 2019
Rate 6.5/10
I was very interested in reading this book because like most people, I've always had a fascination with the Titanic. I've read a few novels about the Titanic but none that followed the lives of people after the sinking. I've always wondered how did life go on for people afterwards, how can life go on after going through such a dramatic ordeal? It was neat to see an authors idea of how that could've played out, by writing the lives of 4 survivors.
It was a good fast read and I did enjoy it.
Profile Image for Jennifer N.
724 reviews4 followers
July 21, 2020
This one was hard to put down. Part 1 takes place on the Titanic and we get different perspectives. Reg is a first class steward, Annie is an Irish mother who is taking her children to meet her husband and Juliette is a young, pregnant first class woman trying to find a husband quickly. Part 2 is what happens after the sinking (spoiler alert - all 3 survive). It was really interesting and I liked all of the main characters and was rooting for them.
Profile Image for Joanne.
534 reviews50 followers
January 19, 2021
The book follows 4 passengers from the Titanic, as they try to get on with their lives after the disaster.

Reg-a first class steward, an all around good guy who struggles with the loss of his best friend

Lady Juliette-A young British woman of good breeding, who is traveling to America to hide a pregnancy

Annie-An Irish woman traveling alone with her 4 children to join her husband in America

Margaret and George-an American couple returning home after visiting Europe

This was a fast, fairly light read with a a good story. The writing isn't spectacular, but for a HF/Romance/ Mystery it held it's own. It was nearly a 4 star read for me, until the last third of the book. The ending to each persons story seemed a bit far-fetched to me and that annoyed me enough to cut it down to 3 stars.
Profile Image for Lynda Kelly.
2,026 reviews79 followers
November 26, 2018
And this makes.......a hat-trick of 5* reads by this author !! Another superb story, though, as is her wont, her books are set around true stories which I really like a great deal-can you tell ? Of course, the title gives this one away as being set on the ill-fated Titanic, though not too much is actually on board as we follow the lives of a few of those who were lucky enough to survive. She advises us at the end that pretty much all the main characters are set around real people aboard, and especially Reg. I liked him a great deal, though wasn't always impressed by decisions he made along the way. He gets to redeem himself in my eyes, though. Another favourite was Margaret Grayling.....what a lovely lady.
It was shocking to read, in amongst all the grandeur on board that the staff only had 2 baths for 800+ of them !! Another shocking thing I'd never considered was it being as dark as it was and upon ending up in the water that night, it was hard to figure out in which direction to swim ! I'd never, ever heard of a Lozier car, either, so looked those up on Google. It was sad to read a ship had been closer than the Carpathia that night, which I don't recall reading about before. I looked up The Horseback Dinner, too.
Something I didn't like and hope gets "fixed" for future editions is the utilisation of the first line from each chapter in the Table of Contents. Of course I couldn't just flick past them so ran my eyes down them only to learn one constituted a big fat spoiler !! THAT needs sorting.
I also wasn't keen on a couple of spellings she used when the Irish women spoke......like wan or childrun.....there was no need for it and at first I thought they were frightful spelling mistakes till I saw them repeated further in. Amazon needs to fix its spelling of Juliette in their synopsis as well as it's written Juliet. Not sure if it is on Goodreads as well but I'll check and correct that myself if it's wrong when I've finished my review.
I spotted one missed out fullstop and wondered whether dictates should've been dictats when it was used and bucks severance pay I'd have put an apostrophe in but that was it for my nitpicking.
A couple of parts made me properly cry but I'll leave you with this passage the author writes at the end....says it all, really: "The experience of sitting in a lifeboat listening to 1496 people dying in the water around you must have been devastating."
Profile Image for Saturday's Child.
1,120 reviews
June 22, 2017
This one I noticed on some Goodreads lists and wanted to read it as it has the Titanic in the plot. I have read the authors non-fiction book so I was looking forward to reading this one. At first I wondered if it could hold my interest in part two, the lives of people after the sinking but it certainly did.
Profile Image for Tracey.
1,974 reviews59 followers
August 30, 2018
A very interesting read, Set around a heartbreaking story line. The sinking of the Titanic it’s a story that everybody knows about me and to read this novel based around this has been an emotive experience.
The characters were interesting, likeable and stood out on their own on the page. I think the only Negative thing I would say , is that it was slow being told.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Soo.
37 reviews
April 8, 2018
Enjoyed this book. I kept imagining the movie version of Titanic as I read it. Great job giving a historical account of the sinking and bringing in personal life stories to hook the reader.
Profile Image for Dana.
1,704 reviews18 followers
April 15, 2020
The setting for Women and Children First was the doomed maiden voyage of the Titanic. Through the lives of three people aboard the ship, the author examined how survivors managed in the aftermath of the tragedy. Reg, a first class steward, Annie, a steerage passenger, and Juliette a first class lady, each had unique stories and secrets that were depicted so well in this historical fiction novel.

Everything, both good and bad, about the ill fated ship was brought to life so well here. The author clearly had done significant research, as the many details of the ship were used to help create this story. The first few chapters highlighted the ship’s luxury with scenes set in the well known lavishly decorated rooms. The characters’ problems were expressed in the first few chapters, so I was instantly immersed in their drama.

The sinking was depicted as a chaotic scene, and the truth of that night was absolutely heartbreaking to read about. The time period of 1912 is interesting to me because it was filled with decorum and social procedures that are so foreign to present day readers. those procedures kept third class passengers locked in the ship while stewards seated life boats according to class. Reg and Juliette’s life after the sinking was challenging because they found it hard to live life the way society expected them to after seeing such trauma.

The writing was so great. This was my third novel by this author and I continue to love everything she writes! This was an emotional novel with human characters, and good plots with interesting climaxes. The story was compelling and heart wrenching in a way that only a talented author can achieve. I highly recommend this.
Profile Image for Kathie.
293 reviews1 follower
February 28, 2020
This historical fiction brought me back to 1912 and one of the most famous disasters at sea of what was considered the unsinkable Titanic. Paul delivers the horrific turmoil of the collision and also, the aftermath’s effects on its survivors. It’s these stories that make up the greater part of the story. With much of the narrative coming through the person of first class waiter, Reg Parton, we get a glimpse into not only the utter devastation of the sinking but also, the machinations of the treatment of different classes of passengers. On board ship, it was clearly a microcosm of a very different set of social mores than exists today. The author reflected some factual stories of actual passengers and fabricated others while all the while presenting the effects on both upper class wealthy people like the Graylings and working class families like Annie McGeown’s. Although I found most of the stories compelling, I thought that some were hard to believe. Clearly, there were hints of what we might call PTSD today and the coping strategies used by the characters certainly looked familiar. Overall, I enjoyed this book and author’s writing style.
Profile Image for Linda.
968 reviews38 followers
July 6, 2019
Good Read

My intention to dislike this book failed. I was hooked upon boarding the Titanic. From E deck to Aster deck, the souls aboard ship faced the same disaster. The characters were representative of all classes and occupations. The survivors were re-united, either loosely or closely, in New York City through tragedy, joys, sorrows and mysteries. Look for the character who survives the Titanic and takes the Lusitania on his return trip home to England.

Thank you, Ms. Paul, for a good read.
Profile Image for Vanessa ❤️.
475 reviews33 followers
August 31, 2017
3.5 stars
I really love her writing and have read quite a few of her books but this one fell short for me..good but not great, although I loved her take on the Titanic events and focusing on the aftermath.
Profile Image for Angelique Simonsen.
1,246 reviews22 followers
August 8, 2019
A good yarn to sink your teeth into. I liked Reg and the other main characters esp Mrs Grayling.
183 reviews
August 6, 2018
I liked the way the author brought the terrifying experience from several characters’ point of view. I especially liked the story of the steward and his experience before, during and after the sinking. Fast moving and engaging story.
Profile Image for Barb Kelownagurl.
198 reviews2 followers
February 22, 2019
Another tale of the Titanic - this one about the lives of invented characters during and after the ship sank. I enjoyed it - an easy quick read.
October 2, 2017
I have been obsessed with Titanic and her story ever since I was 5 when I found a book about it at my school library. I would constantly look at the pictures in just sheer wonder. Reading this book definitely made me feel as if I was there while the ship was sinking. The only fault I had in the book was how many characters it followed. I really only cared about 2. The others just slowed down the reading till I got to those 2 and then it would pick up again. Overall I did enjoy the book and would recommend it.
Profile Image for Cassie.
323 reviews10 followers
April 21, 2012
A very well researched book on a subject that I find fascinating.
Sadly I didn't feel any kind of a connection with any of the characters. So much so, that if they had all perished, I wouldn't have cared less.

How the characters coped with their lives following the disaster was very interesting. Obviously suffering from PTSD, it's sad how they were expected to just "get on" with their day to day lives as that was the done thing in those days.
Profile Image for Megan.
2,048 reviews8 followers
August 22, 2018
This book has very short chapters and a soap opera-like vibe. The main focus is on the lives of three characters who survived and their time after the sinking of the Titanic. I would have preferred following just one character with greater psychological depth and analysis to the three somewhat superficial stories we got, but I still cared enough about the characters and actions to enjoy reading to the end.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 292 reviews

Join the discussion

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.