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Customer Review

TOP 500 REVIEWERon 27 February 2012
Is there still interest in the S.S. Titanic (the description used in the book and from Lawrence Beesley's 1912 book "Loss of the S.S.Titanic") now that 100 years have lapsed since the vessel sank? Andrew Wilson's "Shadow of The Titanic" may be proof that there is. This book tells the story of the Titanic from an examination of the lives of some of the people who had survived the vessel. Shadow of the Titanic is more than a collection of biopics of survivors - the reader might be forgiven in thinking he was reading a book of fiction; a catastrophe thriller. There is so much about the vessel and its crew and passengers that another book (or two) may not tire the reader. The name Violet Jessop was mentioned only in passing in Wilson's book although her life could well have added a few pages of interest since she not only survived the Titanic, she went on to serve as a nurse in the Titanic's sister ship, the "Britannic" which had been converted into a hospital ship during World War I. The Britannic was sunk by the Germans - and Jessop survived again (See Tim Maltin's 101 Things You Thought You Knew About The Titanic"). This book is different from the 1960 Dover edition "The Story of the Titanic as Told by Its Survivors" in that the latter was a compilation of the accounts from four persons who survived - Commander, Lighttoller, Archibald Gracie, Harold Bride, and Lawrence Beesley. The writing styles thus varied and the stories in the Dover edition were written within a year or two after the event, but perhaps carried too much detail. Wilson's book thus covers more ground, and is more riveting.

Wilson recounts some famous passengers including John Astor IV who built the Astor Hotel next to the Waldorf Hotel built by his cousin. Astor divorced his wife and later married Madeleine Force, He was 47 and she was 18. Many condemned Astor because divorce was a social taboo then. Wilson's account showed a sweetness in Astor in the final moments when he persuaded her into a lifeboat. Astor himself died on board. Wilson went on to tell the rest of Madeleine's story - how she became a bride, a widow, a mother, an heiress, all in the same year. And that story didn't end there. She gave up her vast inherited fortune to marry a childhood sweetheart, only to divorce him and marry an Italian boxer who boxed her.

The accounts of heroism were balanced by accounts of cowardice. The romantic stories of Marion Wright and Arthur Woolcott, and that of Karl Howell Behr and Helen Newsom contrast with that of Bruce Ismay, the chairman of the White Star Line that built the SS Titanic and her sister ships the "Olympic" and the "Britannic" in response to the rival Cunard Line's SS Lusitania and SS Mauritenia. His survival made him the "whipping boy" of a public out to find scapegoats in the disaster. Ismay survived after being picked up by the SS Carpathia - from the Cunard Line.

Between the clear accounts of heroism and otherwise, there were murky, grey ones like the story of Washington Dodge who survived under suspicious circumstances (rumour had it that he disguised himself - the tall big man with a moustache - as a woman). He was later to be involved in an insider trading scandal, and eventually shot himself in the head.
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