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Titanic Survivor: The Memoirs Of Violet Jessop, Stewardess Paperback – 19 Apr 2007
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'I did not like big ships...I was secretly afraid' admits Violet Jessop in this unique eyewitness account of the most written about disaster of the twentieth century. Joining the Royal Mail Line in 1908 at the age of twenty-one, Violet Jessop spent her entire career at sea, travelling on more than 200 voyages. She was a stewardess for first-class passengers on the Titanic when it sank on its maiden voyage in April 1912 after hitting an iceberg. Her description of the sinking is chilling as she sees to the needs of the passengers before finding a warm coat for herself. While in the lifeboat, someone threw her a 'forgotten baby', and she watched, fascinated as the ship went down 'as if by looking I could keep her afloat'. Four years later, she was a wartime nurse aboard the hospital ship, Britannic, when it struck a mine and sank to the bottom of the Aegean. These memoirs give us a unique glimpse of life below decks aboard one of the great ocean liners.From Jessop's unusual vantage point, we learn what life was like for those who worked on the ships: hilarious fellow stewardesses, cramped quarters, wartime alerts, impossible passengers ('the haughty, gimlet eyes of a certain well-known society woman'), philandering shipmates, exotic ports, unrequited love and tragic deaths.
About the Author
Violet Jessop spent her entire career at sea, travelling on more than 200 voyages. She was a stewardess for first-class passengers on the Titanic when it sank on its maiden voyage in April 1912 after hitting an iceberg.
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Her childhood in Argentina was happy, though overshadowed by her own serious illness, and the illness and death of more than one sibling. Her teenage years, spent at a convent school in Kent run by Breton nuns, also seems to have been happy.
Feeling obliged to give up further education in order to support her mother and younger siblings, Violet embarked on a long career as a ship's stewardess. though there seem to have been many things about being a stewardess that she disliked, particularly the beggarly wages and the fact that they were mostly reliant on tips, she nevertheless continued to work at sea for most of her life.
A pretty girl, she had plenty of opportunities for romance, and turned down at least one very eligible proposal of marriage. The strong romantic attachment she felt to a young Australian called Ned in the end came to nothing, and although she was apparently briefly married, the book says nothing about it.
The sinking of the Titanic is memorably described, but even more dramatic is the sinking of the Britannic, in 1916, the description of which is not for the squeamish. Although the loss of life was comparatively small (only 28 died) a lot of people were horribly maimed by the propellers of the ship, and the descriptions of their horrific injuries make blood-curdling reading.
The editor, John Maxtone-Graham, occasionally casts doubt on certain passages, beleiving they may have been misremembered or exaggerated, but whether they are or not this certainly is an entertaining and memorable book.
The disappointing aspect of the book is the additional work of the editor. But the most annoying aspect is the numerous spelling/typing errors. I should have thought that these would be picked up during proof reading if in fact this was carried out. I have never read a book with so many spelling mistakes.
However, I am glad that I read the book and would definitely recommend it to others. I would have liked to have met Violet Jessop. She sounds a remarkable lady.