Simpson (Alive on the Andrea Doria! The Greatest Sea Rescue in History, 2006, etc.) returns to the subject she knows best in her personal account of the 1956 wreck of the SS Andrea Doria off New England’s coast en route to New York.
Simpson displays an enjoyable command of mid-century language and thought as she introduces the vessel's array of passengers. Recalling from her perspective as a 9-year-old girl on the ship, Simpson introduces her Nonnis, or grandparents, as they board the Doria to accompany her on the trip to meet her parents in America. A 16-year-old boy, who happens to be a student of naval architecture, helps situate the reader via an authoritative portrait of the ship’s captain and the vessel’s precautionary measures against disaster. Such examination is the book’s theme; its individual stories are almost swept away as we wait for the inevitable climax of Doria’s sinking. For all Simpson’s work to compare the tale to the Titanic’s—the Doria’s captain repeatedly attempts to set it apart from that more famous ill-fated ship—she leads us toward her ship’s demise on a similar, seemingly inevitable path toward devastation. Still, Doria’s looming troubles cannot be detached from its fate, although only in retrospect is a ship’s sinking guaranteed. Simpson’s telling is a well-paced account of the ship’s decline and the families the catastrophe affected. Her female perspective helps mold a heartily compelling tale, although the account offers little in the way of uniqueness.
A pleasant voyage for anyone seeking a personal history of the ocean liner.