On April 14, 1912, the White Star Line’s Queen of the Ocean, Titanic, hit an iceberg on her maiden voyage and, at 2:20 AM on April 15, sank to the bottom of the Atlantic, taking 1517 souls to their watery graves.
Back in 1985, I wrote a novel where the heroine was sailing home on the Titanic when it sank. Naturally, being the heroine of my book, she didn’t drown. (That would be a very tough sell in the romance market!) Anyway, I did a lot of research about the ship and its sinking, and every night for about a week after I wrote the scenes where the ship went down, I dreamed of people in the water, screaming for help. Even in the daytime, I had a sense of ill-being, of wanting to do something to help them. Yeah, that’s what it’s like to be a writer.
Still, my interest in the Titanic hasn’t wavered through the years. There is such a wealth of human tragedy and sacrifice in the story of this ship, its victims and its survivors. So you can imagine my willingness to read and review Thomas Nelson’s release of The Band That Played On by Steve Turner (print version | Kindle version). The sub-title explains the focus of the book: “The Extraordinary Story of the 8 Musicians Who Went Down with the TITANIC.”
Most everyone knows the ship reportedly went down with the band playing “Nearer My God to Thee.” Now Steve Turner tells us the stories of each of these men. I loved this book because it gave me what I enjoy most: personal stories interwoven into the fabric of the larger story of history. This isn’t an in-depth reference book about the ship or the guilt or lack thereof of its captain or who was at fault for the shortage of lifeboats. But there is plenty of history between these covers and a lot of interesting facts as well. Like this one:
“When Roger Bricoux [one of the band members] didn’t respond to the French call-up in 1914, he was registered as a deserter even though he had been dead for two years.”
Maybe it’s the writer in me. Maybe it’s because I love history. Probably it’s a combination of both. But how could I not love knowing that a man dead for two years, a man who had been celebrated on posters as one of “The Heroic Musicians of the Titanic who died at their posts like men,” still managed to be listed as a deserter at the start of WWI?
If you enjoy history, if you’ve enjoyed the movies about the Titanic (any or all of the several), then I think you’ll like this book. I know I did.
Here’s the official blurb:
The never-before told, inspiring stories of the 8 brave musicians who played as the Titanic sank.
When Titanic collided with an iceberg on April 14, the eight members of the band had already retired for the evening. Still, they put on overcoats and came out to play in the lounge. When most of the First Class passengers had taken to their lifeboats, the musicians moved to the deck and continued to play as the ship sank. One passenger said: “Many brave things were done that night, but none were more brave than those done by men playing minute after minute as the ship settled quietly lower and lower in the sea. The music they played served alike as their own immortal requiem and their right to be recalled on the scrolls of undying fame.” But who were they? What journeys brought them to this deck on this icy ocean? Who did they leave behind? Historian and biographer Steve Turner delves into the lives of these brave men, revealing eight unique portraits of bravery.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”