By TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER
“Voyagers of the Titanic” by
© 2012, William Morrow
$26.99 / $29.99 Canada
342 pages, includes index
There’s no doubt about it: moving stinks. You pack your belongings, living with cartons and mess in the meantime, always needing something that’s stashed in a mystery box. Then you haul everything to your new place and unpack it, living with cartons and mess in the meantime, looking for the mystery box and apologizing to whatever friends you have left after they have finished helping.
Now imagine doing it blindly and with very little real preparation, clutching a few paltry possessions and a half-promise of a job, leaving your loved ones an ocean behind. That’s just one of the stories you’ll find in “Voyagers of the Titanic” by Richard Davenport-Hines. One hundred winters ago, the Arctic temperature was milder than normal, which created a higher number of icebergs from the glaciers near Greenland’s coast.
These icebergs floated down into the Atlantic Ocean, right into shipping lanes for cargo ships and luxury liners. One of the liners was the Titanic. Eleven stories high, weighing nearly 47,000 tons, the Titanic was massive. She carried 2,240 passengers and crew, gems and spices, books, a car, fine fabric, mail, and more. There were fine dining rooms onboard, a swimming pool, library, and quarters for pampered first-class dogs. Most of the crew of the Titanic was new to this ship, although they were an experienced lot.
An overwhelming majority of them were British and included stewards, a linen keeper, and a slew of men whose backbreaking job was to fill 190 steel furnaces with coal every 20 minutes. Their captain was on the verge of retirement. Third class passengers, who constituted most of those onboard, were likewise mostly British, but they also hailed from Ireland, Croatia, Norway, and elsewhere. Second-class passengers were largely working-class folks, social up-and-comers, and small business owners. They counted among them a single black man, the only one on board.
First class passengers were the kind who might board the Titanic on a whim, or just as quickly cancel the trip to pursue another fancy. Some of them, in fact, did so. Others, tragically, did not. “Voyagers of the Titanic” begins in an unusual place, and one can almost feel the doom in author Richard Davenport- Hines’ words. For reasons you’ll soon see, the ship was ill-fated from the moment it set sail and—knowing what you know—there is a sense of wanting to warn someone of the impending disaster as you’re reading. Davenport-Hines tells about each group of people onboard, and there are even surprises here.
I’ve read a lot of Titanic books, but I enjoyed this multifaceted take on the ill-starred story. “Voyagers of the Titanic” is truly quite moving.
Worth a Look:
“’Unsinkable’: The Full Story of the RMS Titanic” by Daniel Allen Butler takes the story from before the ship was built to the days when she was discovered at the bottom of the Atlantic. First published more than a decade ago, the newly-refurbished paperback is nicely updated.
Author Charles Pellegrino jumps into the midst of the tragedy in “Farewell, Titanic: Her Final Legacy” and tells the story of the last minutes before the sinking and its aftermath from the survivors point-of-view. Pellegrino then writes about the subsequent search for the ship.
Readers who just want an overview of events will appreciate “The Titanic for Dummies” by Stephen Spignesi. Like most other books in the “for Dummies” series, there’s just enough information to make you seem Titanic smart. The book is browse-able and also includes some cool pictures.
“Titanic: The Unfolding Story” takes a look at the days before the ship was built through the days after the disaster.
The unique twist here is that the book is created entirely of authentic newspaper articles and stories from the Edwardian era. The pictures imbue a “You Are There” feel to this read.