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by Terri Bey

A couple of weeks ago, I finished reading Report Into the Loss of the S.S. Titanic: A Centennial Reappraisal by Samuel Halpern, Cathy Akers-Jordan, et. al. This book analyzes the Titanic disaster 100 years after that tragic April night. Samuel Halpern, Cathy Akers-Jordan, along with other Titanic experts, such as George Behe, Steve Hall, and others discuss aspects of the disaster learned since the two inquiries and the 1985 discovery of the wreck by Dr. Robert Ballard and Jean-Louis Michel. In this blog, I will be giving my review of the book.

This book is a well-written and detailed analysis of the disaster. What I really liked about this book was the authors' in-depth examination of the Titanic itself, as well as the disaster. For example, Bruce Beveridge and Steve Hall show the reader Titanic's inner workings, such as the decks and what was on each deck. Bill Wormstedt and Tad Fitch do a wonderful job examining the evacuation. Finally, Samuel Halpern does an excellent job throughout the book in clearing up the myth that the Mount Temple was the "mystery ship. Halpern also explains the "Californian Incident," and judges the performance of Captain Stanley Lord, the Californian's captain, as well as examines other aspects of the disaster.

This is a must-have for any Titanic enthusiast. I also would recommend this for anyone wanting to learn about the Titanic disaster. The way the book is set up also helps the reader. If the reader wants to read about a certain item, they can look at the table of contents and go right to that item. This works especially well with the Kindle version which I own. If I wanted to read about the allegation that the Third Class were held back by the gates, all I have to do is go to Chapter 8: "Too Few Boats, Too Many Hindrances" and click on "A Question of Locked Gates" by Cathy Akers-Jordan and George Behe, and click on it. A reader with a hardcover version would just go to the page that it's on.

Even though the book can get a little technical at times, I highly recommend this book.


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by Terri Bey

The Titanic Book Club will be featuring well-known Titanic author Walter Lord and his legendary book, A Night to Remember (1955) in our December Newsletter. I have read A Night to Remember several times over the years and I have read it again for this blog and the Club Newsletter. As many of my readers know, there is also the famous film adaptation of A Night to Remember (1958) which was produced by William MacQuitty and directed by Roy Ward Baker. Both the book and the film have piqued the public's interest in the disaster. There was a 1956 TV adaptation narrated by film star Claude Rains which aired on NBC, but this blog will only discuss the book and the feature film adaptation. I will make a comparison of both the book and the feature film. I will give a review of the book and the film, and point out how the film interprets the book.

Review of the book, A Night to Remember (1955) by Walter Lord

If you know someone who is just starting to learn about the Titanic, this would be the book I would have that person reading. Walter Lord writes a taut, minute-by-minute account of the final hours of the Titanic. The reader will be gripped from the time he or she reads the Foreword, where Lord tells the reader about a ship featured in an 1898 book titled, Futility by Morgan Robertson which characteristically resembled the Titanic in almost every way, to the collision to the chaos of trying to release the collapsible boats. The reader will be bewildered by the S.S. Californian's sitting in the water while the Titanic is shooting up rockets. The reader also will see acts of heroism from passengers, as well as from the rescue ship, the Carpathia. This is a great book and I highly recommend it.

Review of the film, A Night to Remember (1958)

A Night to Remember (1958) was produced by William MacQuitty and directed by Roy Ward Baker. The film stars Kenneth More as the Titanic's Second Officer Charles Herbert Lightoller, Michael Goodliffe as ship designer Thomas Andrews, Laurence Naismith as Captain Edward J. Smith, and Honor Blackman as Mrs. Liz Lucas. The film is an adaptation of Walter Lord's 1955 book of the same name. The film was shot in various locations.

This film is the definitive film to watch about the sinking of the Titanic. Again, if you know someone who wants a Titanic movie recommendation, have them watch this one, before any other Titanic film. A Night to Remember was filmed in black and white and has a great documentary-style feel. The viewer will feel like he or she is part of the action. Viewers will get a sense of how needless this disaster was when they watch this film. They will see how women refused to get into lifeboats and how people felt safer on the supposedly "unsinkable" ship than in the lifeboats. They will see the inaction of the S.S. Californian, among many other frustrating events that contributed to the disaster.

The viewer also gets to see how the disaster plays out, from the collision to the sinking to the aftermath in the lifeboats. It is one of the most frightening films ever, especially when the ship really starts to list badly. The film is also well-acted. Kenneth More is awesome as Charles H. Lightoller. Laurence Naismith does a wonderful job as Captain Edward J. Smith. I love how Naismith was able to portray a captain who was jubilant at the beginning of the voyage to one who knows it's the end of his life. It is probably my favorite performance in the film. I also want to give lots of praise to all of those extras who played those desperate passengers who struggled to get into lifeboats and climbed that rising stern and jumped off of it.

As far as the film's interpretation of Walter Lord's book, I think the movie did a very good job. The book starts out with Lookout Frederick Fleet spotting the iceberg and the movie starts with the christening of the Titanic. In actuality, the White Star Line never christened any of their ships. The film includes footage of stand-in ships and people boarding and the viewer sees First Class, Second Class, and Third Class passengers on the way to the ship. One change from the book that I love in the film is that the film shows some life on board the ship before the accident, whereas the book concentrates on the accident and what happens during the evacuation. The filmmakers' showing life on the ship before the tragedy was a nice touch.

Walter Lord's book is much better at flushing out what the passengers and crew were doing and thinking during the disaster. After all, the filmmakers only had so much time to tell the story and obviously could not tell the entire book in 2 hours. The filmmakers have to compress things in the book. For example, when the readers read statements attributed to a particular passenger or particular officer, the filmmakers can't include every single statement, so the filmmakers had other people in their film say the lines. For example, Second Officer Lightoller (Kenneth More) in the film, said things that others officers had said. The movie makes Second Officer Lightoller the hero and the focal point of the film. The book shows there were plenty of people who did heroic things that night.

Cover of A Night To Remember by Walter Lord

Sinking scene from A Night to Remember (1958)


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by Terri Bey

In my last blog, "My Special Dining Experience at the 2021 Titanic Conference," I discussed eating food from the First Class Menu on the last night of the maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic. At the same conference, during the free time between speakers and the Thursday night get-together, I met Peggy Wirgau and her husband. Matt. I started talking to them and they were both very nice people. I saw that she had her book, "The Stars in April." I asked her what the book was about, as I had heard of it, but had forgotten the subject of the book. Mrs. Wirgau said that it was a novel about Titanic Second Class passenger and survivor Ruth Becker Blanchard when she was a 12-year-old girl traveling with her mother, little sister, and baby brother on the Titanic to America.

I told Mrs. Wirgau that I might pick up the book. Well, at the end of the conference, I got myself a signed copy.

I found "The Stars in April" by Peggy Wirgau to be a fantastic book and I highly recommend it to anyone who is a Titanic enthusiast. The main character is 12-year-old Ruth Becker, who has to leave India for the United States with her mother, Nellie, and her sister, Marion because her baby brother, Richard became ill and would get better treatment. The reader discovers that Ruth is not happy about it, as she misses out on her chance to play her violin at an event that she was looking forward to playing and she has to leave her beloved father, Allen, and her friend, Sajni back in Indian where the family lived, as her father was a Lutheran minister.

Wirgau deftly tells this story of this 12-year-old girl who is just mad at the world. Wirgau takes the reader into Becker's mindset throughout Becker's trip. Becker is mad that her brother got sick. She is mad that she won't be able to play at the festival. Becker is mad that she has to take Marion everywhere. During the large part of this trip, Becker has a pity party.

However, Wirgau shows us how Becker's mindset begins to change when Becker meets all these different people. Becker meets a young boy and his father on the train. She meets the young boy again on another ship that takes them to Southampton, and the two get into a bit of mischief. Becker meets several people on the RMS Titanic. She runs into Second Officer Charles Lightoller. She walks the Pekingese dog, owned by Henry Sleeper Harper. Becker meets several Third Class Passengers. The reader learns that she is in Lifeboat 13, which also held the Caldwells. Becker goes from someone who feels sorry for herself to someone who starts to understand what is important in life.

While this book is a fictional novel, Peggy Wirgau tells a great story about a young girl who goes through a transformation. You watch Ruth Becker grow up before your eyes. What I really liked about the book was at the end of each chapter, the reader sees Becker's observation of the stars each night. I found that so interesting, as the night of the collision, there was no moon, just a night full of stars.

"The Stars in April" by Peggy Wirgau is also a great page-turner, as I wanted to know what was going to happen. I highly recommend it.

To purchase "The Stars in April" by Peggy Wirgau:

Peggy Wirgau's Website: The Stars In April — Peggy Wirgau


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