A moving account of the people who sailed into maritime history on the doomed Titanic.
In this eloquent, meticulously researched biography of the ship’s international “cast of characters,” biographer, historian and journalist Davenport-Hines (Ettie: The Intimate Life and Dauntless Spirit of Lady Desborough, 2008, etc.) commemorates the centenary of the “most terrible wreck in the history of shipping.” Rather than highlight the class divisions and antagonisms that James Cameron brought to the fore in his 1997 film, the author examines what the actual voyage meant to the different people involved with the ship. For some, an “Atlantic crossing was a regular trip they made twice or more often a year.” For others, the trip meant separation from everything they had ever known. However mundane or momentous, a sea voyage was an event that reshaped human relationships on either side of the Atlantic. In his treatment of the voyagers themselves, Davenport-Hines is as democratic as his premise. He devotes one chapter to each type of person on board—sailors, crewmembers, first-, second- and third-class passengers. His stories about such notable figures as Ben Guggenheim, John Jacob Astor and Lady Duff Gordon stand side by side with those of ordinary men and women. Davenport-Hines also offers compelling portraits of the Titanic's powerful godfathers: “Lord [William James] Pirrie, whose shipyard built it, Bruce Ismay, whose company operated it, and Pierpont Morgan, who owned it.”
The book has all the inevitability and pathos of Greek tragedy, but by maintaining the personal dimension, the author transforms a narrative of monumental hubris meeting human error into a haunting story of real, intersecting lives on a collision course with destiny.