Although we think we know the story of the Titanic - the famously unsinkable ship that hit an iceberg on its maiden voyage from Britain to America in April 1912 - little has been written about what happened to the survivors after the tragedy.
How did the loss of the ship shape the lives of the people who survived? How did those who were saved feel about those who perished? And how did they remember that terrible night? Shadow of the Titanic will shed new light on this unforgettable event by showing how the disaster continued to shape the lives of those passengers who escaped the sinking ship.
©2011 Andrew Wilson (P)2014 Audible, Inc.
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Andrew Wilson's book provides a wonderful expansion of the Titanic story. What he's done is gather and organize a series of lives: what happened to the survivors of the wreck? Some found happiness with new life partners they met in the lifeboats; others struggled to make sense of the tragedy, and more than a few committed suicide.
Wilson does a great job capturing the unique qualities of each person's life and personality. (I do have two criticisms: one is that he sometimes tends to speculate about psychological states that can't be verified; another is the recurrence of the phrase "lay at the bottom of the ocean.") We hear about Jack Thayer, the scion of a main line Philadelphia family; Dorothy Gibson, star of silent film who wrote and acted in her own film about the Titanic within weeks of her arrival in New York; the haunted and reclusive Bruce Ismay, who lost a leg to diabetes; the affable Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff Gordon, who spent the rest of their lives trying to justify their escape from the wreck in a lifeboat that held only 12 people; the obsessive Edith Russell, the woman who had a pig-shaped music box, and who was horrified when the film version of "A Night to Remember" showed her wearing a dress she would never have worn; and Millvina Dean, the last survivor of the Titanic, who was only 9 months old at the time of the wreck and who died in 2009.
Most of the stories are of first-class passengers, with a handful from second-class and virtually no one from third-class. Of course the first-class passengers were more likely to survive and more likely to leave accounts in newspapers and books: by percentage, more first-class men survived the sinking than third-class women and children.
There's quite a good account of the wreck as well, obviously much shorter and more selective than Walter Lord's narrative. But as he discusses the lives of the survivors, Wilson returns again and again to the story of the sinking to fill in stray details.
The book is read brilliantly by Bill Wallis, whose gravelly voice sounds like it's been through a few shipwrecks of its own. I found myself holding my breath as Wallis took me through Ismay's appearance before the Senate inquiry in America and the British Wreck Commission inquiry; cringing at the obtuseness of the Duff Gordons during their own time in what became, for them, the dock of public opinion.
I'm usually listening to three or four audio books at a time, switching between them at different times of day or depending on mood. One of the best things I can say about this enthralling listen is that I set aside all the other titles I was working on till I finished this one.
Coupled with the narrative skills of Bill Wallis, the author (Wilson) paints a fascinating look at one of the most intriguing tragedies of the twentieth century. It was especially interesting to see the distinctions that existed between how the first class survivors coped with the Titanic disaster compared to the "lower" class survivors. There is something to be said of the nature of those who see themselves as "entitled" over against the rest of us "mere mortals." A wonderful look at an historical event that remains definitive of human tragedy.
These are the sad but fascinating stories of some of the survivors of the Titanic. It seems as though they were all fundamentally changed by the event. They didn't just get over the shock and move on. Why? Most of the female survivors had lost male family members; husbands, fathers, sons, brothers. Male survivors were shamed and tainted for the rest of their lives for having broken the Edwardian code of allowing women and children to be saved before thinking of their own skin. This latter group included the Chairman of the White Star Line, who lived his life numbly in a cocoon of guilt and shame because he was a male survivor.
There were other possible outcomes, such as a few people who profited from their experiences by becoming Titanic survivor celebrities, but most were forever scarred by the disaster and many committed suicide, wracked by grief or guilt.
"Tales of the Titanic Survivors"
For the most part this was a well done account of the lives of a selected group of Titanic survivors after this tragic event. However, I rated the book only as 3 stars because of the liberties the author took in providing the final thoughts of some individuals at the ends of their lives. I found it especially egregious when he described the dying thoughts of several suicides as if he were working from a transcript of their last musings. This is not a novel; it is a work of nonfiction. As such, the author had the responsibility to his subjects and his readers to at least offer some disclaimer explaining that he was taking license based on his understanding of these people from his research.
The sinking of the Titanic has fascinated people of all ages for more than a hundred years. As a child, I remember watching the TV production of "A Night to Remember" and then reading the book. Years later, my young students loved the section of their reading anthology that described this historical event. There are so many books and movies about the Titanic that have continued to be immensely popular. "Shadow of the Titanic" is unique in continuing this tragic story past the horrific events of that cold night in April of 1912, past the headlines and shock around the world. It carefully probed the effects this event had on the future lives of a broad array of survivors. I found it worth reading and carefully researched. The book forced me to think about the actual people involved, and I cared about them. Perhaps that is why was I was offended when the author attempted to read their minds as they died. To me this was a serious flaw in an otherwise excellent book.
"Well researched and narrated"
For those who are intrigued by the Titanic tragedy, the author looks at the lives of the survivors, rich and poor, and details the facts of their lives after the sinking. Wilson was careful not to infer broadly that everything was attributable to the sinking, but like survivors of 9/11, people's lives were changed.
A quick, lively listen, though in future, British narrators should ask Americans how to pronounce our city and state names. A minor glitch, but a great audiobook!
"The Story after the Story!"
Hearing how the tragedy of the Titanic continued to affect the survivors for the remainder of their lives.
The compilations of so many little biographies of so many interesting and diverse people.
"Interesting, but a bit long"
This story was quite interesting, a new take on a story we all know. It did become a bit long, and at times a little hard to follwo all the stories, but the overall impact of the sinking of the Titanic on these people's lives was very interesting.
"IT WAS THE PEOPLE , NOT THE SHIP !"
DID A GREAT JOB READING.
NO. BUT IT WAS EASY TO GET BACK TO. I GOT THE BOOK AS A GIFT FOR MY WIFE AND SHE LOVED IT.
"Reflections on survival and what it means"
My grandmother (who had a cousin who survived the Titanic sinking) was fascinated by the Titanic and passed this fascination on to me. I would say that this book is definitely geared toward the Titanic historian, but is interesting to almost anyone.
This book reflects on the lives of the survivors of the Titanic disaster and how is ultimately shaped their lives. It's a fascinating reflection on what survival can mean to the mental state of different people and how different kinds of people were able to cope with the issues that came from surviving. Some people thrived, some thrived initially but eventually gave into the mental trauma and some never were the same from the moment they were rescued. It was interesting to note how little mental health really understands about how humans deal with loss and survival, even now. But 100 years ago, in Edwardian society, it's clear that survivors were expected to "buck up" and move on with their lives. My only complaint, and I find this in a great many historical non-fiction works these days, is that the writer does take a fair amount of liberties in weaving the story and telling you how people feel about things (despite the fact that they died in the disaster or even after the disaster and well before the author could have interviewed them) but I think this a popular story device, so I'm willing to overlook it's overuse.
The performance makes this non-fiction work particularly interesting, Bill Wallis has a great knack for inflection and voice modulation that gave even the parts of the book that were somewhat technical (especially when discussing the building of the ship) great listen-ability.
I would recommend this to anyone interested in history, the Titanic or just how to deal with loss and survival.
I loved hearing the surprise twists of the survivor's lives. It was really fascinating and entertaining!
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