Tag Archives: Tiitanic

Book Review: A Night to Remember by Walter Lord (4/5)

29 Oct

I’m obsessed with the Titanic. It’s been a source of amazement and curiosity for at least the last ten years. We went to Belfast just to see the museum. I’ve seen the traveling exhibit at least four times. When I found a copy of Lord’s book at a closing Barnes and Nobel a few years ago, I knew I had to grab it. It took me a while to start diving in, but I’m really glad I was able to eventually.

Cover image via Goodreads

A Night to Remember by Walter Lord

Summary from Goodreads:

First published in 1955, A Night to Remember remains a completely riveting account of the Titanic’s fatal collision and the behavior of the passengers and crew, both noble and ignominious. Some sacrificed their lives, while others fought like animals for their own survival. Wives beseeched husbands to join them in lifeboats; gentlemen went taut-lipped to their deaths in full evening dress; and hundreds of steerage passengers, trapped below decks, sought help in vain.

I wasn’t sure if this would feel dated to me. I know that sounds silly when it’s about such a historic event. However, finding the wreckage changed a lot of ‘known’ facts about the sinking. Thankfully, Lord stuck to facts and this book was a wonderfully detailed account. I enjoyed that he stuck to a set time frame, the night of the sinking. He didn’t weigh down in the loading, construction, or investigations. It helped make this slim volume very engaging. I’m glad he focused on people of all classes instead of on the first class ‘glamorous’ experience. The crew is an often-forgotten group as well but Lord did them tribute.

There wasn’t a lot of characterization in this book which was fine with the ‘hard facts’ mood that Lord picked. The one thing I learned about a passenger that I hadn’t heard before was about Bruce Ismay. He never recovered from the Titanic and lived out the rest of his life solitarily in Ireland. I can’t imagine the responsibility he felt and how hard that was to live with.

It’s hard to imagine oneself in a position like those on the boat. Coming to terms with death and loss aren’t easy to do and I’m getting chills thinking about it. I hope I never find myself in such a horrible position.

Walter Lord
Image via Wikipedia

I loved all the detail Lord had about who was in what lifeboat and what happened while they were waiting for the Carpathia. I’ve not read a lot about that part of the sinking and it was interesting to learn something new. I wasn’t aware such good notes were taken about this time. I hadn’t considered how spread out the lifeboats would be after being adrift at sea on a dark night. All of these details made it easier to imagine how the night felt to the survivors.

The book seemed to come to its conclusion a bit abruptly. I almost hoped for a bit more about the inquiry because it was referenced several times toward the end but never talked about in detail. However, that would have extended the book beyond the scope Lord set and I understand why he didn’t do it.

My audiobook was narrated by Martin Jarvis. I felt he did a good job with the book. As a history, there weren’t a lot of voices or characters that he needed to do. He delivered a very factual account of the night with no thrills and the respect due to the lost.

It’s incredible that the Titanic has remained such a fascination for the world more than 100 years after her sinking. Any time I see an exhibit or talk about the ship, people are always interested and engaged in learning about her. The museum in Belfast is a rather recent structure and was packed on the Monday we visited. We’re fascinated with beauty and tragedy. How something so rich and magnificent could flounder and sink. How death equalized John Jacob Astor and the poorest steerage passengers on that boat. How so many small mistakes could cost so many lives.

Writer’s Takeaway: Lord didn’t take a lot of hearsay for granted. Many people had ideas about how the Titanic sank and what happened in the hours she was sinking. I expected to hear things that I knew were false but was really surprised with Lord’s story. He was true to the facts and the people who were there that night. As a huge fan, that makes a huge difference.

An enjoyable read for a big fan looking to learn more. Four out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

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