Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage, was a new way to relay the experience of Titanic’s sinking on April 15, 1912. The book basically told of Titanic’s voyage from start to finish through the actions of the elite passengers aboard. The author marshaled a lot of information in a format that was easy to read and understand. The pages were filled with so many quotes, photographs, and details, that this was educational while also being, dare I say, enjoyable to read.
The infamy of Titanic’s experience is colored by the owner’s arrogance, the class system, and the passenger’s belief they were on an unsinkable ship. The author explored those issues as well as a host of others. For example, changes to employees and the positions they would fill on the voyage resulted in the missing binoculars being locked in a drawer by an officer right before he left the ship. William Murdoch, who would become known for who and how he loaded lifeboats was actually demoted to that station to make room for a more senior officer, which caused tension and chaos among the crew.
What made this book stand out among other Titanic books were the inclusion of quotes from passengers, some of which were eerily ominous and almost predicted the collision with the iceberg. The many photographs that graced the pages helped to give me an immediate sense of the discussion on those pages. No one will ever know for certain whether Mr. Ismay’s wish that Titanic arrive in New York a day ahead of schedule actually influenced the Captain to light more boilers and increase speed through the icy waters, but the speed was a much talked about topic. The passengers created betting pools that rewarded those who guessed the distance traveled in a single day, and evening chatter always revolved around how the speed would impact Titanic’s reputation.
The descriptions of the actual sinking and the emotional aftermath were haunting. Quite a bit is known about those two and a half hours, all of which is utterly unbelievable. Steerage passengers being locked in lower levels, boats being loaded half full, and dogs surviving over people continue to evoke interest in this enormous tragedy even to this day. This was a great book about the many different aspects of Titanic.