The history of the ill-starred, erratic Great Eastern, the largest ship built before the 20th century, provides a tragi-comic saga of a ship often very much at sea, and an often delightful documentary in its incidental material. Launched in England in 1858, the world watched her construction and early career with almost unparalleled intensity but the ship never came up to the expectations held. Her cost was so staggering that she was never properly finished; her huge size was responsible for her ramming or sinking of approximately a dozen smaller ships; she brought financial disaster to almost every group of owners- and many people lost their lives while associated with her. Her one moment of fame, rather than notoriety, came when she was the ship from which the first Atlantic cable was laid. There's considerable humor here-which does not quite conceal the careful research which has preceded the writing- but does brighten the annals of fiasco and failure which included mutinies and bankruptcies, lawsuits and losses, and a wake of death. And the flag is dipped to Isambard Brunel and John Scott Russell, who conceived the Great Eastern and who become heroic- while their defeat was tragic- in the accomplishment of their titanic enterprise... A sure masculine market, with strong popular possibilities.