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Lunch » Tags » History » Reviews » Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage: The Titanic's First Class Passengers and Their World » User review

An extremely important addition to the historical record.

  • Jul 16, 2012
Type in the word "Titanic" on the Amazon website and you will discover dozens and dozens of books that have been written about the ill-fated vessel. Over the past century there have been literally hundreds of books written about this topic. Indeed, along with Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War and World War II it appears that the Titanic is one of the most popular subjects for books in all of American history. Now in 2012 author Hugh Brewster has given us a compelling new book chronicling the personal narratives of some of Titanic's most prominent passengers. In the pages of "Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage: The Titanic's First Class Passengers and Their World" you will meet a noted artist, a trusted Presidential aide, the woman who come to be known as "The Unsinkable Molly Brown", a pair of world-class tennis players, a popular movie actress as well as a number of people from the upper-crust of American society including John Jacob Astor, Isador and Ida Straus, Charles Melville Hays and Benjamin Guggenheim to name but a few. Hugh Brewster offers his readers the unique opportunity to share this fateful voyage with these and a number of other passengers and crew members. Now there are few people more qualified to write about the story of Titanic than Hugh Brewster as the author worked closely with Robert D. Ballad, the noted oceanographer and explorer who discovered the wreckage of Titanic, on his 1987 international bestseller "The Discovery of Titanic". In "Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage" Hugh Brewster presents the story of this unspeakable tragedy from an entirely new angle. This is compelling reading to be sure.

Interspersed amongst the plots and sub-plots concerning the first-class passengers are any number of amazing photographs and illustrations carefully selected by the author to enhance the readers understanding of just what was going down on the Titanic during those fateful days. Most notable among these are a dozen or so photographs from what has come to be known as "The Father Browne Album". Francis Browne was a Jesuit seminarian who boarded the Titanic in Southampton on the afternoon of April 10, 1912 and left the ship when it was docked in Queenstown, Ireland just before it headed out into the open Atlantic. During those two days Browne took dozens of photos of life aboard Titanic. Browne shot pictures of the gymnasium, the Marconi room, the first-class dining saloon, his own cabin, and of passengers enjoying walks on the Promenade and Boat decks. He also captured the last known images of many crew and passengers, including Captain Edward Smith. Meanwhile, I thought that Hugh Brewster did a remarkable job of conveying to his readers the mood of the first-class passengers in the days prior to the collision. Then without warning the passenger's preoccupation with fun and frivolity would quickly shift to the monumental life and death struggle that we are all so familiar with. One can only imagine the horror these poor souls experienced during those dreadful final hours.

Over the years I have read about a half dozen books about Titanic. Like so many people around the world I seem to have an insatiable appetite for this stuff. In my view Hugh Brewster has given us a highly informative and very well-written book. "Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage: The Titanic's First Class Passengers and Their World" would make great summer reading for both history buffs and general readers alike. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Very highly recommended!

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Paul Tognetti ()
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I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage takes us behind the paneled doors of the Titanic’s elegant private suites to present compelling, memorable portraits of her most notable passengers.  The intimate atmosphere onboard history’s most famous ship is recreated as never before.

   The Titanic has often been called “an exquisite microcosm of the Edwardian era,” but until now, her story has not been presented as such. In Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage, historian Hugh Brewster seamlessly interweaves personal narratives of the lost liner’s most fascinating people with a haunting account of the fateful maiden crossing. Employing scrupulous research and featuring 100 rarely-seen photographs, he accurately depicts the ship’s brief life and tragic denouement, presenting the very latest thinking on everything from when and how the lifeboats were loaded to the last tune played by the orchestra. Yet here too is a convincing evocation of the table talk at the famous Widener dinner party held in the Ritz Restaurant on the last night. And here we also experience the rustle of elegant undergarments as first-class ladies proceed down the grand staircase in their soigné evening gowns, some of them designed by Lady Duff Gordon, the celebrated couterière, who was also on board.

      Another well-known passenger was the artist Frank Millet, who led an astonishing life that seemed to encapsulate America’s Gilded ...

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