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4.2 out of 5 stars
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4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 6 October 2013
This comprehensive book does much more than rehash the familiar story of the ship and the disaster. The author details the lives of some of the workers and rich travelers on this fateful voyage, thus enabling the reader to grasp the details of what life was like (for the rich and poor) in 1912

I'm from the U.S. and read (by a customer) on Amazon's U.S. site that whole chapters have been left out of the U.S. version and a complete version can be purchased at Amazon U.K. I really enjoyed this work. Why it was so heavily edited in the U.S. is a mystery to me.

There have been hundreds of books published about the Titanic. This easily ranks among the top.
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on 29 June 2012
Purchased Titanic Lives as an extra birthday gift-fast delivery and very good purchase price.Very interesting to read about different aspects to this terrible disaster.
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on 19 February 2014
Well priced, speedy delivery but obvious sign of wear to the pages.
Readable and the pictures also explain a lot of the titanic, not what we see on the film.
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This is a wonderful addition to the many books about Titanic and its fateful maiden voyage. The emphasis is on the passangers and crew which sailed on it and what their experiences would have been and how they differed. There is a lot of information on the stratified and class conscious society at that time. I was interested to learn that US immigration laws stipulated passengers of different classes must be separated on liners by locked metal barriers to stop the spread of contagion. Also, that it was considered very bad manners to go and look round lower class decks onboard liners ("slumming expeditions"), which many first class passengers did when crossing the Atlantic as though studying another form of life. Information on the experience which greeted third class and steerage passengers at Ellis Island was also very illuminating and stories of those emigrating to America to find a better life often extremely touching.

Titanic was supposed to bring a new era to Atlantic crossing and passengers often claimed, "You would never imagine you were on board a ship." On board the largest ship in the world it was easy to forget the power of the ocean. This fascinating book looks at the people who were responsible for building Titanic and where it was built. The general idea was to build ships which replicated the amenities the rich expected of luxury hotels. Lifeboats were, apparently, discussed for five or ten minutes" during a meeting, but it is worth pointing out that Titanic was no worse than other liners and that they fulfilled all the regulations of the day. For passengers, steam travel was both quicker and safer.

On board Titanic were a huge number of rich and influential passengers, including John Jacob Astor IV and Benjamin Guggenheim. First class passengers often cancelled and booked last minute in their constant "breathless rush across continents", which is likened to, "the same scene in a new setting". Once on board, the author discusses all the pleasures and activities they could have indulged in. There is also detailed information on both Second class, with its clergymen, shopkeepers, chauffeurs, teachers and engineers. Third class is also looked at in depth, as are the officers and crew on board. The stories about the passengers are often unbearably sad. On Titanic were professional gamblers, missionaries, adulterers, a child kidnapper, millionaires, farmers and economic migrants from many parts of the world, all with a story to tell.

As the book nears its conclusion you almost hope for another ending, but obviously that is not to be. The collision and the sinking of Titanic are recounted with emphasis on the personal stories. Titanic's doom aroused malicious satisfaction as well as horror. It was packed with millionaires,who aroused envy and migrants,who aroused contempt. Not everyone wished to "die like English gentlemen" or "treat death like an awfully big adventure". Captain Smith (whose grandson was my old geography teacher at school and who so resembled his grandfather it was like seeing him appear in the pictures of this book!) was anxious to avoid panic and shaken by the knowledge that their were insufficient lifeboats. Therefore passengers were often given mixed messages about how dangerous the situation was, with passengers often being told to return to their cabins, until water actually seeped under the doors.

There are stories of immense bravery in this book and of men refusing places in the lifeboats - "No woman shall be left aboard this ship because Ben Guggenheim was a coward!" proclaimed the millionaire and certainly Guggenheim, Astor and Strauss were three prominent men who were proclaimed heroes, as was the ships band who courageously played on to stem panic, The Band that Played On: The Extraordinary Story of the 8 Musicians Who Went Down with the Titanic. It is certainly true that men were allowed to board on one side of the ship and not the other and that men were excluded needlessly, even if there were spare places in the boats (of which there were many not full to anything near capacity). Young boys especially were considered as men - I mentally cheered when Astor plunked a girls hat on an eleven year old boys head and thrust him into a boat. The true tragedy were the tales of tiny bodies recovered from the sea and nearly half the children on board lost, although gender was more important than class in surviving the disaster.

Lastly, the book looks at the aftermath of the tragedy. How some were called heroes and others, including Bruce Ismay and the Duff Coopers, made scapegoats How to Survive the Titanic or The Sinking of J. Bruce Ismay. There was "a thrill at the heroism and self sacrifice", but undoubtedly men had survived and women had died, along with children. National mourning ensued, especially in New York, Paris, London and Southampton, where many of the crew lived. Overall, this is an extremely interesting and very moving read, which gives great detail on how people lived and travelled during the time of Titanic and of the lust for speed which caused ships to take risks, as well as the mistaken belief that the liners were so huge and powerful they were invulnerable to nature. If anything good came from this terrible tragedy, it was a change to safer sea routes and laws demanding every ship had enough life boats for all passengers and crew. Excellent read and highly recommended.
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on 3 March 2012
I loved this book.

I was fascinated as Richard Davenport-Hines set the infamous maiden voyage in its historical and cultural context.

Far from being a dull list as one reviewer would have it the book interestingly begins with the "life" of the fateful iceberg and then carefully moves on to reveal the race at the beginning of the 20th century to produce bigger, faster and grander steam ships, although, he notes, they were largely crewed by men trained in sail power and pretty much universally set to sea with fewer lifeboats than would be needed in case of disaster. It wasn't just the Titanic. In fact the Titanic carried more than the officially designated number for a ship of its size, and anyway it was said she was so sturdy and unsinkable she was herself just one big lifeboat.

Davenport-Hines beautifully sets the scene as commission hungry shipping line agents sold the American dream to potential immigrants who clamoured for the promised land, only to be met with harshness and scarcely hidden racism at Ellis Island. He compares this to the lives of the first class passengers and their snobbery - inherited wealth looking down upon new found wealth, and the second class, with men running away with their mistresses. In second class he tells the story of the only black passenger on the ship, with his white wife and their children, all looking for a new start in a more open-minded land, as well as a Japanese priest who would survive the disaster but be fired from the church for the shame of doing so.

My one criticism (and the only thing preventing 5 stars) would be that the author covers perhaps too many of the people on board and so we are sometimes only given scant detail of their lives and reasons for heading to New York. But that is really only a minor point. We still learn plenty of the lives of people like the millionaire Astor's, Lord and Lady Duff-Gordon, and Archie Butt, the aide to President Taft, and his "best-friend", the artist Francis Millett, who, before they went down with the ship, lived together in a house with red and pink rose wallpaper and a staff of Filipino boys (and nobody thought to guess - innocent times indeed).

After the people on board were brought to life I thought it reiterated the ultimate event as a real human tragedy. The touching piece on how a thirteen year old boy was hidden below the skirts of women in a lifeboat, only to be forcibly removed at gun-point by an officer insisting on women and children first, was particularly vivid. The boy, who although new to being a teenager was obviously deemed to be a man, lay on the deck, sobbing into his hands and assigned to his fate as the women were lowered on the lifeboat with nearly half the spaces completely empty. Many of them were never able to shake that memory and Davenport-Hines touches upon the aftermath of the disaster - not only how it shocked the world, but how it effected the mental state of those who survived.

I came away realising that it wasn't just the iceberg that sank the Titanic, but the culture that said men must die like men and women were fragile creatures that needed male protection. We believed that your social standing counted for more than your deeds and imposed rigid codes of social etiquette, employed casual racism and held an unshakeable belief in our ability to conquer nature and the power of industry. So much so that even as the ship was buckling in two and people were clinging to the railings to prevent them from sliding down the deck, some still believed the Titanic couldn't go down.

Perhaps the sinking of the Titanic had to happen to snap the human race out of its self-important daydream, just in time for the Great War to smash it altogether.
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on 17 October 2016
This is the first book I have read about the Titanic, and what a superb introduction it has been. Moreover, as the title suggests, it examines in particular the lives of those both travelling and working on the ill-fated liner - both where they had come from and their hoped-for futures. It discusses the age's fascination with speed, which was itself to play the most significant part in the tragedy. Deeply touching in the depth of its research about ordinary lives, and those not so ordinary, masterful in its overview of the social divisions, both on board, and in wider society - Titanic was indeed a microcosm of the world at large in 1912. It is the details of the individual lives of passengers and crew, which the author has collated, and presented with such sensitivity and clarity, that will stay with me.
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on 11 August 2014
I have always been interested in the great ships/liners of the past and seek tv material of that nature .

Of course having an Irish background and coming from a great sea port and its history of ships and liners and ship building ( Camel Lairds ) and actually attending the Titanic expo way back in the mid 80's and amazing that was too in Liverpools Albert Dock , I really wanted the book for me and then maybe pass on to whomever is interested .

A lovely thick book that im sure would make a great present for someone appreciating history and the Famous Boat she was was ..and it will also tell the other exciting tale ...

What more can I say , great evening reading on the safe shores of your settee .
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on 4 January 2014
I very much enjoyed reading this book which delves in to the lives of Titanic's passengers - the famous and the not so famous.

Even after so many years it still seems so appalling that there were insufficient life boats. Although Titanic had more than needed to comply with the law as it stood then.

Thoroughly recommend.
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on 18 November 2012
I have read the reviews of this book, both praising and damning, with interest as I can see both points of view. I found this book fascinating because I haven't read a lot about Titanic, and knew most of it from the Hollywood film which should not be used as a historical source! It debunks a lot of the myths (the third class being locked downstairs, women and children ONLY - on one side of the ship anyway) though I found it curious that it didn't mention the band playing until the epilogue, and nor does it mention Murdoch's infamous shooting and subsequent suicide. It would have been nice to mention the latter if only to clear Murdoch's name. I also felt it was very fair to Ismay, who I have always felt rather sorry for.

I found the lead-up to the sinking fascinating. The author works well to build up the society of 1912 and the history. He writes factually but the book has the pull of fiction and works well on both levels.

The sinking of Titanic is romanticised as a huge tragedy but this book (which I hugely recommend) brings to life not only the society of 1912, the people on the ship and Titanic herself, but the true horror of the event. It was heartbreaking reading, but I do feel it's important reading because that horror is sometimes forgotten.
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on 12 August 2012
If you thought you knew everything about the legendary liner then read again: Titanic Lives is an expansive vivid account of the ill-fated RMS Titanic. There is a wealth of factual information from the shipbuilder's yard of construction to the emblematic class system of the period; for which this ship has become such an historic time-capsule: The Hereditary rich, the patricians of first class nobility, and the industrial titans on board in luxurious First Class, the Second Class vying for respectability, and the the cramped cheek-by-jowl stories of The Third Class passengers. I was riveted to the author's poignant detailed accounts of personal survival, and the doom of individuals caught up in the chaos as the ship was going down - evoking the utter pathos of the disaster that at the time was practically the 9/11 of it's day without the terrorists.

The author explores the ripple effect as the news spread across the globe that caused an outpouring of grief worldwide, and almost mass hysteria in some quarters. Richard Davenport-Hines should be highly commended for his outstanding accomplishment in recording his extensive research that has formulated his sympathetic tome. Totally absorbing, and utterly riveting how the author has captured the tragedy from absolutely every aspect imaginable. For example: I didn't know about the Lebanese immigrants on board, hints about a particular gay couple or two, the intimate stories of economic migrants, political and religious refugees off to a new life Stateside, the impact the disaster had on the White Star shipbuilder's themselves and the vivid detail of the interiors and layout of the ship. The detailed personal accounts told of the crew and passengers immerse the reader so as to feel like you are on the doomed maiden voyage itself - making for a compelling page-turner that is probably one of the best books EVER written about the Titanic. 10/10
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