Friday, April 13, 2012

The Titanic 100 Years on: An Interview with Author Hugh Brewster

If you’re wondering why, for the last few days, you’ve been hearing about the Titanic everywhere you turn, it’s because April 15th marks 100 years since that “unsinkable” luxury liner hit an iceberg and slipped below the waves during her maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York City.

So much about the Titanic has kept our attention since. The fact that she was the largest ship afloat at the time of the accident and that more than 1,500 people lost their lives when she went down. Also because it was the maiden voyage of this wonderful luxury ship, and the sailing was a glamorous social event; millionaires and celebrities were on board for the all-important first Atlantic crossing.

So here we are, 100 years later, still shaking our heads and still, in a way, wondering if there are parts of the mystery yet to be unraveled. Just as author Hugh Brewster’s new book about the Titanic, Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage, sets sail senior editor J. Kingston Pierce had a chance to talk with him and discovered that there are. Writes Pierce:
Powerfully and, at times, poignantly composed, Gilded Lives contributes a depth of human character and humility to the Titanic story we all know. Brewster makes excellent use of first-hand accounts from the Titanic’s survivors to re-create what life was like aboard that White Star liner as she rushed toward America. He enlivens his narrative with intriguing asides that place the reader within the culture of that long-ago period, having to do with Edwardian fashion trends, the ship’s rococo accoutrements and even the 1906 murder of renowned Manhattan architect Stanford White. His reconstruction of the vessel’s ultimate, anxious moments and the subsequent rescue of its lifeboat- and boat-scrap-borne castaways is especially captivating. And in a postscript, Brewster tells what became of a some of the cabin-class travelers who lived through the ordeal of April 14-15, 1912 -- some of it good news, some quite the opposite.

Soon after I finished reading
Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage, I tracked down author Brewster to ask him about the source of his interest in the Titanic, what he’d learned from composing this account, and some of the mysteries that, even a century later, surround what National Geographic calls “the mother of all shipwrecks.”
The results of that exclusive January Magazine interview are here. Meanwhile, because of his longstanding passion for all things Titanic, Pierce rounds up related and inspired reading material here.

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