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Of the 2,240 people aboard the ship, 1,517 perished either by drowning or by freezing to death in the frigid North Atlantic waters. What followed the disaster was tantamount to a worldwide outpouring of grief: In New York, Paris, London, and other major cities, people lined the streets and crowded around the offices of the White Star Line, the Titanic’s shipping company, to inquire for news of their loved ones and for details about the lives of some of the famous people of their time.
While many accounts of the Titanic’s voyage focus on the technical or mechanical aspects of why the ship sank, Voyagers of the Titanic follows the stories of the men, women, and children whose lives intersected on the vessel’s fateful last day, covering the full range of first, second, and third class—from plutocrats and captains of industry to cobblers and tailors looking for a better life in America.
Richard Davenport-Hines delves into the fascinating lives of those who ate, drank, reveled, dreamed, and died aboard the mythic ship: from John Jacob Astor IV, the wealthiest person on board, whose comportment that night was subject to speculation and gossip for years after the event, to Archibald Butt, the much-beloved military aide to Theodore Roosevelt and William Taft, who died helping others into the Titanic’s few lifeboats. With magnificent prose, Voyagers of the Titanic also brings to life the untold stories of the ship’s middle and third classes—clergymen, teachers, hoteliers, engineers, shopkeepers, counterjumpers, and clerks—each of whom had a story that not only illuminates the fascinating ship but also the times in which it sailed. In addition, Davenport-Hines explores the fascinating politics behind the Titanic’s creation, which involved larger-than-life figures such as J. P. Morgan, the ship’s owner, and Lord Pirrie, the ship’s builder.
The memory of this tragedy still remains a part of the American psyche and Voyagers of the Titanic brings that clear night back to us with all of its drama and pathos.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Tad Davis on 04-10-12
"Voyagers of the Titanic," as its title implies, focuses on the people rather than the technical aspects of the wreck. Davenport-Hines organizes the stories into groups: among them the shipbuilders, the ship's officers, and the first, second, and third class passengers. I was particularly pleased to see so much attention being given to second class, which was given short shrift in the movie "Titanic" and in many other accounts of the disaster.
Up to the point where the iceberg strikes, each chapter is filled with interlocking mini-biographies of the people involved. The narrative is organized loosely in a kind of "six degrees of separation" style: branching out through the passenger list and giving a vivid sense not only of the people but of the world they inhabited.
The author reaps the benefits of this careful preparation in his narration of the disaster itself. These are not random people who show up on the boat deck: they're people we've met, spent some time with, come to have some opinions about. Davenport-Hines recounts the story of the wreck, the lifeboats, the rescue, the dissemination of the news: it's all familiar ground to Titanic buffs, but given here with superlative organization and a host of fresh details.
Anyone who's read more than one book about the Titanic knows how vastly different perceptions can be. Davenport-Hines takes a dim view of Senator William Smith's US Senate inquiry into the disaster, accusing Smith of "grating stupidity" and the hearings as "raucous scapegoating." Smith, of course, was virtually the hero of Wyn Craig Wade's book, "The Titanic: Disaster of the Century."
I don't think I would recommend this to someone as the first book to read on the subject - that would still have to be Walter Lord's classic - but it's a compelling listen, a very thorough account of the subject, and it should definitely be the second or third book on your Titanic list.
22 of 22 people found this review helpful
By Simone on 02-10-13
Titanic: Always Interesting
If you’ve read as many books and seen as many documentaries about Titanic as I have, you’ll willingly add this book to your list.
It’s like a little collection of biographies of people whom you already know a little about. Having seen movies and TV series and documentaries, you’ll recognize most names and already have an understanding of how the main characters relate to one another. This book fleshes that out in more detail by providing additional background information and interesting facts about the key players’ lives.
Survivor’s recollections of the sinking itself were compelling, as well as the long cold wait for rescue. (Wouldn’t that make an interesting movie? A couple whose vacation plans are interrupted when their boat (The Carpathia) alters course to rescue Titanic survivors…).
I was not expecting to learn anything new, but I did! Not just trivia like how many napkins and nutcrackers and wine bottles were on board the Titanic (LOTS) but about how so many passengers were bound for Canada for example, and what their plans would have been had they survived the sinking.
The book also includes a lot of details of the days in New York just after the sinking; I found this the most interesting of all because this part of history is often overlooked. Attention is usually always focused on the boat, very little to the people left behind. I had no idea there were so many imposter-grievers! People pretending they lost loved ones in the sinking!!
The “what ever happened to” section at the end where we learn the long term fate of survivors is poignant (although a little ghoulish) because it exposes how an experience like this can impact a person deeply for life.
It was a great read – I highly recommend it.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful