Sunday, 20 June 2010

Titanic, a survivor's story - Book Review

Titanic, a survivor's story by Colonel Archibald Gracie

What is it about:
'...there arose to the sky the most horrible sounds ever heard by mortal man except by those of us who survived this terrible tragedy. The agonising cries of death from over a thousand throats, the wails and groans of the suffering... none of us will ever forget to our dying day.'
Archibald Gracie was probably among the last to leave the sinking Titanic on that cold April night in 1912. his record of the terrible events remains the most vivid and accurate first-hand account of the disaster ever published.

What did I think of it:
As the title of the book already says: this book is the story of one of the survivors of the sinking of the Titanic. This alone makes this book for anyone who's interested in Titanic a must-read.
The first five chapters of the book are Colonel Gracie's story of what happened to him the last day on board of the ship and during the actual sinking and thereafter.

What makes this book really special is that Gracie also tracked down as many people as he could find who survived the sinking to collect as much information as possible about the lifeboats.
The last two chapters are a list of all the lifeboats and who were on board of them as far as he could figure that out, and some anecdotes about what happened on each lifeboat.

That he managed to get so much information is a feat in itself, but when you know he did all his information gathering in the summer of 1912 while feeling ill and that he died in december 1912 (the after-effects of his ordeal) you really have to admire his strong will.

It may be clear that I really love this book because of the richness of information and because of the personal aspect: a lot is written about Titanic, but a book about what happened written by someone who actually was there cannot be missing in any Titanic-collection.

A critical note:
Gracie was absolutely a man of his time.
It's amazing how almost every man who was on board of a lifeboat is either a sneaky foreigner or had been given personal permission to be there.

Why should you read it:
This book is a must read for anyone who is interested in the sinking of the Titanic.

Other books about Titanic:
A night to remember - Walter Lord
882 1/2 Amazing Answers To Your Questions About The Titanic - Hugh Brewster
The Discovery of the Titanic - Robert D. Ballard

One other interesting read:
Futility: Or The Wreck of the Titan - Morgan Robertson
(This book was written in 1898, and is of historical interest for the number of similarities between the ship in the story and the Titanic, which sank some fourteen years later. Both the Titan and the Titanic had watertight compartments (which made collision a smaller worry), both carried as few lifeboats as the law allowed, both sailed in April heading for New York, both struck icebergs around midnight, and both sank with heavy loss of life.)


Anonymous said...

Sounds fascinating!

Alice Audrey said...

This one looks like a total must-read. I wonder if my dh has a copy. As soon as he wakes up, I'll ask.