Shadow of the Titanic by Andrew Wilson
There are a number of books coming out in the next couple of months about Titanic. It doesn’t matter what area of interest you have in the story, from the infamous ship’s history to the aftermath still felt today, there’s surely to be a book to please you. One of the things I’m most interested in is the stories of the survivors, so finding Shadow of the Titanic by Wilson was wonderful.
Even though most people remember the 1,500-plus people who lost their lives in the tragedy, hundreds survived and were forced to deal with the event for the rest of their lives. Some survivors lived fruitful and wonderful lives, like Marion Wright, who was sailing to America to wed her sweetheart, Arthur. After being reunited in New York, the couple wed and took a train to Oregon, where they would set up a home on a fruit farm. By all accounts, Marion lived a good life, loving her husband, raising her children, and not letting the aftershocks of the Titanic affect her life.
Other survivors weren’t as lucky, like Helen Bishop who, before setting sail on Titanic, was told by a fortune teller that she would first survive a shipwreck, then an earthquake, and would ultimately die in a car accident. After surviving Titanic, she was sure it would be years before the rest of the prophecy came true. However, in 1913, she survived an earthquake after moving to California and later that same year was in a car accident.
Wilson gives more than just accounts of people like Marion Wright and Helen Bishop, who most fans of the Titanic will be reading about for the first time. He goes into details about some of the ship’s famous survivors, like Madeline Astor, who became a wife, a widow, and a mother all in the same year. Astor’s post-Titanic life is probably well-known to a lot of readers, but I was reading about her trials for the first time and was held captive.
Perhaps the most famous survivor, J. Bruce Ismay, is given a lengthy history. From his early beginnings through the ship’s building process and aftereffects, Ismay is the most diagnosed “character” in Wilson’s book. I went into that chapter prepared to see Ismay the way he’s been painted for almost 100 years: as the reason the Titanic is at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean and a coward for abandoning ship while hundreds of women and children perished. Wilson, however, shows a much different attitude toward him, even going as far as calling the Ismay chapter “The World’s Most Willing Whipping Boy.” This was probably my least favorite chapter, as I prefer my Titanic stories with an Ismay-shaped villain attached.
For anyone wanting to read about the Titanic, but wants to do so in a new way, I highly recommend Shadow of the Titanic. You won’t be bombarded with details about the disaster that have been played over and over again in the media, but you will be introduced to a wonderful cast of real-life characters who were forced to deal with surviving one of the most deadly disasters in our history.