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Shadow of the Titanic: The Extraordinary Stories of Those Who Survivedby Andrew Wilson
Synopses & Reviews
IN the early morning hours of April 15, 1912, the icy waters of the North Atlantic reverberated with the desperate screams of more than 1,500 men, women, and children—passengers of the once majestic liner Titanic. Then, as the ship sank to the ocean floor and the passengers slowly died from hypothermia, an even more awful silence settled over the sea. The sights and sounds of that night would haunt each of the vessel’s 705 survivors for the rest of their days.
Although we think we know the story of Titanic—the famously luxurious and supposedly unsinkable ship that struck an iceberg on its maiden voyage from Britain to America—very little has been written about what happened to the survivors after the tragedy. How did they cope in the aftermath of this horrific event? How did they come to remember that night, a disaster that has been likened to the destruction of a small town?
Drawing on a wealth of previously unpublished letters, memoirs, and diaries as well as interviews with survivors’ family members, award-winning journalist and author Andrew Wilson reveals how some used their experience to propel themselves on to fame, while others were so racked with guilt they spent the rest of their lives under the Titanic’s shadow. Some reputations were destroyed, and some survivors were so psychologically damaged that they took their own lives in the years that followed.
Andrew Wilson brings to life the colorful voices of many of those who lived to tell the tale, from famous survivors like Madeleine Astor (who became a bride, a widow, an heiress, and a mother all within a year), Lady Duff Gordon, and White Star Line chairman J. Bruce Ismay, to lesser known second- and third-class passengers such as the Navratil brothers—who were traveling under assumed names because they were being abducted by their father.
Today, one hundred years after that fateful voyage, Shadow of the Titanic adds an important new dimension to our understanding of this enduringly fascinating story.
"There's just no rowing away from the 1912 shipwreck's tragic backwash in this melodramatic biographical sketchbook. Journalist Wilson (Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith) surveys Titanic survivors' after-stories and chalks up everything he can — suicides, accidental deaths, public disgraces, divorces, remarriages, frigid failures to marry, feelings of angst, embracings of life — to the disaster's legacy. He sometimes visits steerage but focuses on flamboyant first-class passengers like White Star Lines chairman Bruce Ismay, who was pilloried for not going down with the ship; an Astor widow who pursued a scandalous, violent relationship with a much-younger Italian boxer; and unsinkable fashionista Lady Duff Gordon, who shrugged off allegations that she voted against returning in the lifeboat to rescue floundering victims. The author unconvincingly manufactures Freudian complexes for his subjects to psychoanalytically link their every subsequent dysfunction and misfortune to the fatal iceberg. ('The guilt that came with surviving the Titanic...lay heavy upon her heart until finally it could stand it no longer,' he theorizes when movie star-survivor Dorothy Gibson succumbs to high blood pressure and coronary failure thirty-two years after the sinking.) Wilson gives a gripping account of the shipwreck proper, but the long denouement feels like a trumped-up soap opera. Agent: Clare Alexander." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From an acclaimed biographer, a riveting account of what happened to the survivors of the Titanic—to be published in the lead-up to the 100th anniversary of the ship’s sinking.
April 14, 2012 will mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. While much has been written about the great ship, her shocking demise, and those who perished, very little has been devoted to the hundreds of survivors. In Shadow of the Titanic, Andrew Wilson offers a moving look at how their lives were affected by living through this catastrophic event.
For the first time ever, those who lived to tell the tale reveal how they coped in the aftermath. Using archival research and interviews with family members, Wilson offers a unique take on this fascinating story. He shows how some survivors used their experience to propel themselves on to fame and how others were wracked with guilt and refused to acknowledge they had been there. Some reputations were destroyed, and some survivors were so psychologically damaged that they took their own lives years later.
From the famous survivors like Bruce Ismay and Madeline Astor—who became a bride, a widow, and a mother all within a year—to lesser known survivors Dorothy Gibson and the Navartil brothers—who were traveling under assumed names because they were being abducted by their father—Shadow of the Titanic offers a host of astonishing stories that add an important new dimension to our understanding of this legendary disaster.
About the Author
Andrew Wilson is the author of Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith, which was shortlisted for the Whitbread Prize and won the Edgar Allan Poe Award for best biography. He has written for most of Britain's national newspapers, including The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian and the Daily Mail. He lives in London.
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