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  • Shadow of the Titanic

  • The Extraordinary Stories of those Who Survived
  • By: Andrew Wilson
  • Narrated by: Bill Wallis
  • Length: 13 hrs and 15 mins
  • Categories: History, Europe
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (31 ratings)

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Summary

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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The Survivors Story

Shadow of The Titanic piqued my curiosity as it begins where the Titanic disaster ends. Tracing the lives of some of the survivors, it tells a fascinating story of the various fates that befell those people. I listened to the sample and was hooked, so purchased the book. My only minor hesitation at the time was the narrator and the way he would alter his voice to represent the various peoples accounts. However, after a while, I came around to his style and actually felt his skill at a multitude of accents and being able to convey a female voice too, was that of a skilled narrator. he gave the personal accounts included in this book an air of realism as if the people were telling you their story in person. The lives of some of those covered here was truly fascinating, full of twists and turns in some cases and tragedy and sadness in others. Perhaps the personal story covered in this book that surprised me the most was that of Madeline Aster. Her obsessive and violent relationship with regards her third husband. Another very interesting person was the story of Lady Duff-Gordon. She led a very hedonistic lifestyle along with a rather disturbing revelation in her memoirs that was ... well, you have to read the book to find out, won't you! :) Maybe the saddest Titanic survivor, perhaps that's a controversial statement, was the life of White Star chairman, J. Bruce Ismay. Oddly, it seems to me that the fury people felt for him was about the fact he chose to survive and not go down with the ship rather than-his disregard of the ice warnings that led to the disaster itself. Ismay led a very tortured existence after the sinking and punished himself for his actions and inactions on that night. Back in 2012 on the 100th anniversary of the Titanic's sinking, I went to visit the grave of Bruce Ismay at a local cemetery less than a mile from where I live. I found his resting place in one corner and saw a bunch of fresh flowers atop his grave with a note that read, "We forgive you.". I found that to be quite poignant. I am forced to agree with other reviewers here with respect to the author's filling in gaps he could never know. He seems to believe he had knowledge of the last moments of the thought processes of those who chose to end their lives. Other than a detailed suicide note, of which none are referenced here, there is no way one can know the inner thoughts of anyone cited in this book. Sure, if you're writing fiction you can do such a thing, but from a documentary perspective you cannot. Had the author said that based on what he knew of those people, their circumstances and known sate of mind and used that to construct a plausible rationale for the suicide of those included here, then at least he'd have made a suitable disclaimer. In fact, I would point out that most of those who did commit suicide, did so for reasons not to do with their Titanic experiences at all and so their actions were not as a result of that disaster. From memory, the only person I can possibly attribute the Titanic experience to a subsequent suicide was the stewardess that shared a room with Violet Jessop, Annie Robinson. Despite my critical observations above, this is still a very interesting read and well worth your time.

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  • Tad Davis
  • 14-01-12

Wonderful

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.

78 people found this helpful

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  • Mark
  • 25-06-13

Compelling

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.

10 people found this helpful

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  • N. Rogers
  • 25-04-13

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.

9 people found this helpful

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  • James
  • 17-03-12

Fascinating.

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.

9 people found this helpful

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  • deborah
  • 02-01-13

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!

8 people found this helpful

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  • MumsyK
  • 30-04-12

The Story after the Story!

What made the experience of listening to Shadow of the Titanic the most enjoyable?

Hearing how the tragedy of the Titanic continued to affect the survivors for the remainder of their lives.

What did you like best about this story?

The compilations of so many little biographies of so many interesting and diverse people.

7 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Jeanette Finan
  • 03-07-13

I'm sorry that I didn't like this book

It was well written and the subject of the book was interesting to me. I just couldn't get past that author presumed to write about dying peoples last thoughts and actions in a way that he could not possibly have known about.

The book is a non-fictional account of the lives of a selected group of the survivors. All of them very deeply effected by the experience, some of them so much that it changed the entire course of their lives. A few were unable to cope and committed suicide. Some of them did not leave notes. However the author described the dying thoughts and actions of several people as if he had been there and was privy to their last thoughts. This really bothered me. It bothered me a lot. I felt like the author was being disrespectful to the people he was writing about. These were real people! He didn't even write any kind of disclaimer that explained why he decided he had the right to co-opt their last minutes. And then as a result of that I had another issue. How much credence can you give to anything in the book once you feel the author did at least part of his research in thin air. Otherwise I would have rated it at least four stars.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Nichole
  • 22-03-13

Interesting, but a bit long

Where does Shadow of the Titanic rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

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.

4 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Judy
  • 15-09-17

Somewhat Short of Extraordinary

This was a mediocre listening experience. Some parts were compelling, but more often, the individual stories were just plain boring.

The true centre of interest in all these tales is the spectacle of the sinking of the great ship.

The story of the people who paid with their lives for man's blatant hubris in declaring the Titanic unsinkable provides a stark response to the man who declared: Even God himself couldn't sink this ship.

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • EFloyd
  • 26-07-14

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.

1 person found this helpful