Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage by Hugh Brewster

The fatal Titanic voyage continues to attract authors. There is something about the apparent gaiety and glitter of the years immediately preceding WW1 that is somehow alluring to contemporary readers — “a world both distant and near to our own” as Hugh Brewster puts it in the prologue to Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage — The Titanic’s First-Class Passengers and Their World.

More than 100 years on from the loss of Titanic in April 1912, stories of her passengers continue to fascinate modern readers. Brewster focuses on Titanic’s first-class passengers — among them the celebrities of the day — from fashion designer Lucile, Lady Duff Gordon to tennis star, Karl Behr, from President’s aide Archie Butt to artist Frank Millet.

Some of the names are familiar — Astor, Ismay, Guggenheim — from movies like Walter Lord’s A Night to Remember and James Cameron’s Titanic — others perhaps less so, but the portraits presented by Brewster are immensely human and fascinating for the detail that they provide.

For a factual, historical book Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage is a very engaging and fast read beautifully illustrated with photographs. Inevitably, the reader becomes come caught up in the drama of the sinking but Brewster maintains focus on the the individuals rather than on the ship and the book is particularly moving for what it has to say about the aftermath of the sinking and the glimpses it provides in the postscript, “Titanic Afterlives”.

Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage: The Titanic’s first-class passengers and their world by Hugh Brewster is published by Broadway Paperbacks. ISBN 9780307984814; eISBN 9780307984715.