GILDED LIVES, FATAL VOYAGE: The Titanic’s First Class Passengers and Their World. By Hugh Brewster. Crown. 338 pages. $26.
After a century of scrutiny, it would be easy to assume there are no new Titanic stories left to tell.
From survivor accounts and multiple investigation hearings to the conclusions drawn from meticulous study of the ship’s wreckage, seemingly every aspect of the tragedy has been well-documented.
But it is the social stories that historian and author Hugh Brewster shares in “Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage” that give a new take on an otherwise familiar tale.
The Titanic’s first-class passenger list read like a who’s who of Edwardian society, and Brewster takes the reader into their privileged world, beginning before they ever boarded the luxury liner for its fateful maiden voyage. Why were they traveling on the RMS Titanic and how did they know one another?
Brewster also provides an intimate look at how they spent their days and nights on board.
The descriptions of the accommodations, fashions, poker games, dinner conversations and parties depict their decadent lifestyles in detail but also serve to offer insight into the politics and culture of the age.
Wealth and prominence were no match for the disaster that ultimately unfolded, and the first-class passengers who did survive returned home to find their place in society forever altered as they were harshly judged by the press and public.
The sinking of the Titanic marked the end of the Edwardian era, but the enduring fascination with history’s most famous ship continues to prove unsinkable.
Reviewer Lisa Justus, a sports copy editor for The Post and Courier