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How to Survive the Titanic or The Sinking of J. Bruce Ismay by [Wilson, Frances]
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How to Survive the Titanic or The Sinking of J. Bruce Ismay Kindle Edition

3.8 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Length: 352 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Product Description

Review

'A writer's writer who will no doubt inspire her own cult following' (Amanda Foreman)

On Literary Seductions:

'Psychologically rich and wise' (Alain de Botton)

On The Courtesan's Revenge:

'A wonderful biography ... witty and sharp' (Jane Ridley, Spectator)

On The Ballad of Dorothy Wordsworth:

'Passion is the keynote of Wilson's fine biography' (Sunday Times)

Book Description

The strange and fascinating story of the owner of the Titanic, J. Bruce Ismay, the man who jumped ship

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 6539 KB
  • Print Length: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing; 1 edition (15 Aug. 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005EJKRQO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #231,128 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
This is so tedious and hard to get through - don't waste your time. The author is clearly one of those
academics in love with the sound of her own voice and enamoured of long quotations (easier than coming
up with her own decent prose, right?). I was deeply unimpressed.
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By SAP VINE VOICE on 26 April 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I don't know which planet these people, who criticise this book as a character assassination, come from! Have they even read the book? I can only doubt that they have. This book isn't anti-Ismay in the slightest. It is sympathetic towards him and its conclusion is, if there is one, that whatever he did, and no one knows, and no one can ever know, he was only acting as a human being, so he shouldn't be judged by people who haven't themselves been tested in a stressful, life-or-death situation. It reminds me a little of The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher. Whicher is a little earlier, but they both dissect one 'case' and use this as a hub to explore further afield in contemporary literature and society, etc. They also delve into one man's psyche and see what they can discover. This is compelling and excellently written.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Contains some interesting information about Ismay's attitude to the sinking but presents no new details to confirm exactly what action was or was not taken by him on that night of disaster. The book also has a great reliance on long quoted passages from 'Lord Jim' by Joseph Conrad. All in all not the most informative read.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read the reviews of this, heard bits on Radio 4, and in honour of the Centenary, had just re-read Walter Lord's seminal work "A Night to Remember". I was going on holiday, so downloading this book seemed a logical follow-on. It really could have been a good book, but so many irritants precluded this. Very early on there was reference to "Lord" & Lady Duff Gordon - there are articles all over the internet on Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon & his wife - either the editor or the author just slipped up, but it made subsequent facts harder to believe. J Bruce Ismay was a fascinating subject, in today's parlance clearly a very "damaged" personality (or perhaps just plain unpleasant). The author seems undecided. I did seriously wonder if she had chosen him as a subject merely to be able to write a literary treatise on the comparisons with Conrad's Lord Jim. While it didn't put me off reading it (like many I just skipped through it, despite having been unable to stomach Conrad - gave up on the Shadow Line many years ago and was warned off Nostromo & Typhoon by my mother, who was commanded to read them by her father) it didn't significantly add anything to the so-called biography of Ismay.

The author had done a lot of research into Ismay himself, his family, his connections and the enquiries, the material on which was interesting, although (like them) no real conclusions were drawn from them or Ismay's behaviour at them. Ismay's behaviour was weird to the point of deranged, and his subsequent shunning by society was not altogether surprising. Indeed the author does not really plead a case for him. How much more illuminating it would have been to have arranged the book in chronological order. Presenting his early life well into the book just seemed perverse.
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Format: Paperback
I thought this was really boring and couldn't engage with the characters. I guess this was one of the frogs you have to kiss ...
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Format: Hardcover
My views on this book are decidedly mixed. On the one hand, it is both deftly and intelligently written. Wilson has a great narrative style, which moves at a cracking pace, and this does much to immerse the reader in the story of that terrible night in 1912, and its impact on J. Bruce Ismay himself. Meditative and thought-provoking by turns, it succeeds in exploring a refreshing new angle on an oft-told tale.

However, much of the good work is hopelessly - and I mean, hopelessly - undone by a litany of factual errors, mis-captioned illustrations and really appalling editing. To highlight just three painful examples; 'Lord' Duff Gordon was not a 'lord' at all, but a baronet. The plans for the 'Olympic' trio were conceived in Belgrave Square, Belgravia, not in Berkeley Square, Mayfair. And John B. Thayer was the Second Vice-President of the Pennsylvania Railroad, not the (nonexistent) 'Philadelphia Railroad'. In fairness to the author, many of these errors will only be obvious to serious 'Titanic' historians. Nevertheless, the correct information is quite easily obtainable, in both the primary and secondary sources which Wilson (presumably) consulted, and there is absolutely no excuse for such sloppiness. One can only ask oneself how she contrived to get some things so wrong. Did her computer crash at the last minute, causing her to re-constitute her material from memory? Was her initial note-taking at fault? Or was her publisher simply cutting corners? Whatever the reason, it is a great pity that basic facts were not checked more thoroughly, for the cumulative effect of this deplorable carelessness is a fatal undermining of a potentially excellent biographical study.
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Format: Paperback
J Bruce Ismay's life was defined by a single event - the fact he survived the sinking of the Titanic when so many others, including hundreds of women and children, did not. While the captain duly, nobly and even appropriately, in a macabre sort of way, went down with his ship Ismay, the chairman of the White Star Line, stepped into a lifeboat and was saved. The public, viewing the tragedy with horror needed a villain to blame and focused on Ismay, accusing him of cowardice, a reckless desire to push the ship onwards at full speed no matter what and blaming him for the lack of lifeboats. What Frances Wilson does in her book, and does very well in my view, is explain how matters were not quite so simple and, while never taking sides, she reveals that Ismay was not, perhaps, the monster of popular opinion.

None of us can ever really know what it was like to be on the Titanic as she went down. We can watch the films, read the numerous accounts of the sinking and look at the poignant photographs of the ship leaving land behind forever but mercifully being in the midst of the chaos, the screams and the panic as the water lapped across the sloping decks will always be the stuff of nightmares, rather than something we actually experienced. If we were in that situation and, like Ismay, had the chance to calmly step into a lifeboat can any of us honestly say we wouldn't have taken the opportunity? According to Ismay, and to those officers who survived and who witnessed the event, the boat deck was clear of women and children when Ismay took his chance. It is admittedly a difficult statement to believe but Ismay wasn't the only one to claim it was the case.
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