Andrew Wilson is an award-winning journalist and author. His work has appeared in a wide variety of publications including the Guardian, the Washington Post, the Sunday Times, and the Smithsonian Magazine. He is the author of four acclaimed biographies, a book about the survivors of the Titanic, and the novels, The Lying Tongue, A Talent for Murder, A Different Kind of Evil, Death in a Desert Land.
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. (Mar. 6) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Wilson (Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith) offers engaging portraits of the survivors of the world's best-known shipwreck and how they lived with (or repressed) their memories of the event. For some, survival inspired a carpe diem spirit and a determination to live life to the fullest; for others, it brought on nervous breakdowns and social ostracism, particularly for the men who escaped in lifeboats. The most poignant stories are those of the survivors who were plagued by additional tragedies, who died young or committed suicide. Conversely, the longest-lived survivors became beloved symbolic figures of minor celebrity. VERDICT The author makes good use of archival and published sources and his own recently conducted interviews. This is a captivating read that begins where most other Titanic books end. (Illustrations not seen.) [See Prepub Alert, 9/22/11.] (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.