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Walter Lord's account of the Titanic disaster is still the best place to start an exploration of this subject. (The second place to go is Lord's sequel, "The Night Lives On," unfortunately not available as an audiobook at the time this review was written. Wyn Craig Wade's excellent book about the US Senate investigation is scheduled to be released as an audiobook in the new year. Another good resource is John Foster's "Titanic Reader" - though also, unfortunately, unavailable as an audiobook.)
Lord had a massive amount of information at his disposal, including interviews with many of the survivors. He wove the details into a riveting story that begins at the moment of impact and only later goes back to fill in some of the details of the building of the ship and the impact the disaster had on society and maritime law. Many of the individuals are so familiar now from various other book and film treatments that it's hard to remember the time, when the book first appeared some 50 years ago, that many of the details of the story had either not been revealed or had been long forgotten.
The most memorable moment, for me, occurs after the last of the boats has been launched, and two of the upper-class men are making their way to the stern, at that point rising sharply out of the water. Their path is blocked by a sudden explosion on deck of hundreds of third-class passengers who had been held below, by ignorance of the severity of the situation, by ignorance of how to get from steerage to the boat deck, by language problems, and sometimes by locked gates. Most of them died, either pulled down by the ship or in the sub-freezing sea water.
From the standpoint of completeness, the main detail missing from the book is the fact that the ship broke apart before it sank. There was conflicting eyewitness testimony on that point, and the point was only cleared up when the wreck itself was discovered. (It's an interesting comment on the reliability of eyewitness testimony that such a spectacular event, witnessed by hundreds of survivors in the boats, could be uncertain without the corresponding physical evidence.)
Fred Williams has gotten some criticism here for his "monotone" narration. I enjoyed it: it's not so much monotone to me as sober and straightforward. Martin Jarvis's narration of the same book takes a different tack, lightening the overall mood with a tone that sometimes borders, jarringly, on the jocular. Of the two, I much prefer Williams's version.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
I did like the fact that this book did start right out with the disaster of the Iceberg hitting the Titanic, and going straight through the plight of the passengers... but, the narrator is monotone throughout the book. I probably got about halfway through and couldn't take it anymore.
3 of 4 people found this review helpful