Note about my Reviews

Dear Authors: The reviews in this blog are only personal opinions. I have absolutely no background in literature, writing or reviewing. I am a Librarian (actually a Library Technician for those who care OR know the difference) with a love for a good story. The opinions in the reviews are ONLY my OPINIONS. I am not commenting on the writers ability since well -- I am not a writer and never will be. If you are the author of any of the books reviewed here, my opinion is just that and not a judgment against you!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

How to Survive the Titanic or The Sinking of J. Bruce Ismay by Frances Wilson

How to Survive the Titanic or The Sinking of J. Bruce Ismay 
by Frances Wilson
HarperCollins
ISBN: 978-0-06-209454-4
Release Date: October 11, 2011
Buy From Indigo

Description: Award-winning historian Frances Wilson delivers a gripping new account of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, looking at the collision and its aftermath through the prism of the demolished life and lost honor of the ship’s owner, J. Bruce Ismay. In a unique work of history evocative of Joseph Conrad’s classic novel Lord Jim, Wilson raises provocative moral questions about cowardice and heroism, memory and identity, survival and guilt—questions that revolve around Ismay’s loss of honor and identity as his monolithic venture—a ship called “The Last Word in Luxury” and “The Unsinkable”—was swallowed by the sea and subsumed in infamy forever.

The Good Stuff
  • Extremely thorough and  well researched
  • Interesting background information on other members of the crew of the Titanic
  • Fascinating to read about all of the different accounts from the survivors of the disaster - even people on the same boat have completely stories on the events of that night
  • The comparison to Conrad's Lord Jim really does make it a compelling read at times
  • The background info on Ismay's childhood give you insight into the man himself and you can understand how he became the man he was
  • Enjoyed the passages that dealt with "being a true gentlemen" 
  • Liked some of the accounts of bravery and heroism on the night of the tragedy
  • Impressive notes and nicely arranged Index (yes I know - but I'm a Librarian, these things are important to my geek self)
 The Not so Good Stuff
  • Jumps all over the place, extremely hard to pay attention to - really struggled with her writing style -- sort of like reading someone who has ADHD. 
  • Ismay is such an unpleasant character (not to mention his horrible father) that I found I had to keep putting it down because I could really care less about him
Favorite Quotes/Passages

"We're dressed in our best and are prepared to go down like gentlemen.  I am willing to remain and play the man's game if there are not enough boats for more than the women and children." reportedly said by Benjamin Guggenheim


"But in her death throes, the Titanic also became Excalibur, the sword of the mortally wounded King Arthur which was thrown back into the lake and caught by a mysterious hand. Her glittering scabbard sparkled and flashed one last time before the surface of the water closed over her, erasing all trace."

"Ismay never climbed out from the hole into which he had fallen and nor did he achieve the catharsis that traditionally comes with tragedy, but when we see him through Conrad's hooded eyes he has something of the tragic hero. His destiny lay submerged, riding in wait, ready to leap.  He was an ordinary man caught in extraordinary circumstances, who behaved in a way which only confirmed his ordinariness.  Ismay is the figure we all fear we might be. He is one of us."


Who should/shouldn't read
  • For more intelligent readers than me who are fascinated with the Titanic tragedy
3 Dewey's


I received this from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review

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