Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Voyagers of the Titanic by Richard Davenport-Hines

Description from Amazon.com:

Late in the night of April 14, 1912, the mighty Titanic, a passenger liner traveling from Southampton, England, to New York City, struck an iceberg four hundred miles south of Newfoundland. Its sinking over the next two and a half hours brought the ship—mythological in name and size—one hundred years of infamy.
Of the 2,240 people aboard the ship, 1,517 perished either by drowning or by freezing to death in the frigid North Atlantic waters. What followed the disaster was tantamount to a worldwide outpouring of grief: In New York, Paris, London, and other major cities, people lined the streets and crowded around the offices of the White Star Line, the Titanic’s shipping company, to inquire for news of their loved ones and for details about the lives of some of the famous people of their time.

While many accounts of the Titanic’s voyage focus on the technical or mechanical aspects of why the ship sank, Voyagers of the Titanic follows the stories of the men, women, and children whose lives intersected on the vessel’s fateful last day, covering the full range of first, second, and third class­—from plutocrats and captains of industry to cobblers and tailors looking for a better life in America.
Richard Davenport-Hines delves into the fascinating lives of those who ate, drank, reveled, dreamed, and died aboard the mythic ship: from John Jacob Astor IV, the wealthiest person on board, whose comportment that night was subject to speculation and gossip for years after the event, to Archibald Butt, the much-beloved military aide to Theodore Roosevelt and William Taft, who died helping others into the Titanic’s few lifeboats. With magnificent prose, Voyagers of the Titanic also brings to life the untold stories of the ship’s middle and third classes—clergymen, teachers, hoteliers, engineers, shopkeepers, counterjumpers, and clerks—each of whom had a story that not only illuminates the fascinating ship but also the times in which it sailed. In addition, Davenport-Hines explores the fascinating politics behind the Titanic’s creation, which involved larger-than-life figures such as J. P. Morgan, the ship’s owner, and Lord Pirrie, the ship’s builder.

The memory of this tragedy still remains a part of the American psyche and Voyagers of the Titanic brings that clear night back to us with all of its drama and pathos.
My Thoughts:

This is a non-fiction account of the Titanic and is in three parts.  The first covers Titanic "On Land".  The building of it, ship owners, shipbuilders, sailors and the boarding of it.  Second, it covers "At Sea" including first class, second class, third class, and the officers and crew.  The third part covers the collision and the news about it.
Some of the information was quite riveting and I could not turn the pages fast enough.  For instance, I learned that if the captain had not order that the ship be turned when they encountered the iceberg and hit it straight on, in all likelihood it would not have sunk.  The shipyard with the workers was very volatile and the managers were afraid every time they had to go in and talk with the workers.  Violence often erupted.

There were also parts that were very dry to me.  The people on the Titanic including passengers and crew were described in such a way that I couldn't muster any sympathy for them.  Perhaps that is due to this book being non-fiction and written from second and third hand accounts of the people involved.  However, I have read non-fiction book and have found some to be fascinating on other topics.
There are photos in the middle of the book which I enjoyed the most.  If you want a book that pretty much covers the entire topic of Titanic with all the smallest and largest details, this is the book for you.


For your chance to win a hardcover copy of this book, entire our giveaway here.


  1. It sounds like this one should be taken with a grain of salt.

  2. When I heard about this book I really wanted to read it. I probably still will, but that is too bad it is dry.

  3. Thank you for a chance to win this book for my daughter who loves anything Titanic.


  4. This book has been on my TBR for awhile. Sounds like it is worth reading. Thanks for the review.

  5. I must say at the beginning of your review I really wanted to read this book. But that changed into the contrary.
    Even a non-fiction book must not be dry. I expect more from a book which emphasizes in the title that the persons on board the Titanic are the main topic of the book.

  6. I am very interested in this book - even if it was a little dry. I am interested to hear about the ship before it set sail as I don't know too much about that part. Thanks for the review because I hadn't yet heard of this one.