x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

How to survive the Titanic: women and children last

Frances Wilson examines the life of J Bruce Ismay, the owner of the White Star Line, who famously jumped into one of the lifeboats when the Titanic went down after hitting an iceberg, leaving hundrds of passengers behind to perish in freezing Atlantic waters.

Subtitled "The Sinking of J Bruce Ismay", Frances Wilson's new work is a study of the owner of the White Star Line, famously, the company responsible for the construction and operation of the ill-fated Titanic.

Wilson's extensive research finds him sifting through eyewitness accounts and testimonies given at the ensuing public inquiry, and provides an engaging portrayal of this unfortunate man who, like many other members of high society, was on-board the mammoth passenger liner when it struck an iceberg mid-Atlantic.

While not attempting to justify Ismay's actions - specifically his decision to abandon ship and jump onto one of the Titanic's lifeboats, while 1,517 fellow passengers and crew perished in freezing waters - Wilson does examine his subject's life in rigorous, unstinting detail. He paints a grim picture in the process.

Most interesting are the parallels Wilson draws between Ismay and Joseph Conrad's fictional creation Lord Jim, who also abandoned a ship in distress, only to survive and be forever haunted by his decision. This smart observation enriches Ismay's story with an emotional intensity often reserved for fiction.