In time for the centennial commemoration of the sinking of the Titanic, a close look at the lives of the ship’s most privileged passengers.
Drawing on a wide range of material, Titanic expert Brewster explores the world of the wealthy passengers, especially the intricate network of complicated social connections and public scandals that often persisted onboard. Each chapter concerns a specific circle of high society, and the author looks at some of the biggest names of the era, including millionaire John Jacob Astor IV, presidential aide Archibald Butt, railroad president Charles Hays and future tennis champion Norris Williams. Although rich in historical detail, much of Brewster’s narrative is couched in speculative prose—for example, passenger Charlotte Cardeza “may have instructed her maid to select her rose-colored Lucile evening dress from the eleven gowns she had with her”—at times stretching the reader’s credulity. Brewster rarely mentions those not directly involved with the rich and famous—the majority of the passengers on board—but he supplies an impressive amount of information, often directly pulling from firsthand accounts. The author vividly renders the collision, the sinking, the chilling wail of unseen swimmers calling from the cold water and the shipwreck's aftermath.
Though overly concerned with the minutia of Edwardian society, Brewster delivers a welcome, interesting addition to Titanic-related literature.