Mr. Russell’s conceit works magnificently. It installs a fresh lens onto a drama that most of us first heard as children. It affords him the luxury of patiently setting the scene, which he does by chronicling the pressures mounting on the wealthy on both sides of the Atlantic ... Mr. Russell, a historian from Belfast, seems on slightly surer footing recounting tensions on the British side of the pond, but he fills his tale with worthy shipboard characters from both countries ... One wishes Mr. Russell had also featured one of the rougher emigrants traveling in third class. But he compensates with his sure dissection of Edwardian manners: the ritual teas, the high-church Protestantism, the smug certainty with which privileged heirs assumed their futures ... Mr. Russell exploits our foreknowledge of events to dramatic advantage. The most innocent detail, such as the placement of the lifeboats, fills us with dread ... a beautiful requiem.
... [Russell] proves Titanic’s story is very much worth rediscovering ... Russell concentrates on six such figures, colorfully detailing their wardrobes, meals and pastimes ... He also rigorously debunks darker rumors, painstakingly refuting, for example, the myth that stairways were blocked to prevent third-class passengers from reaching what few lifeboats were available. Russell even reasons that having more lifeboats may not have mattered after all ... Bacteria on the ocean floor may soon finish off the wreckage of Titanic, but her story, like Celine Dion’s Oscar-winning song from the movie, will go on. Gareth Russell does his best to tell it truly.
Gareth Russell tells us the popular appeal of the Titanic outstrips that of every ship since Noah’s ark. In his hands you can understand why ... like spending time with an amusing conversationalist aboard what the Edwardians called 'a ship of dreams' ... Russell shows us around and, like one of the more awkward guests, I have questions. Some beds have 'rose pink duvets'. Surely Russell means eiderdowns? The Titanic’s Turkish baths contain a swimming pool and electric baths, an early form of the tanning bed. Intriguing. In what way were they like a tanning bed? ... Happily, the six first-class passengers and their families on whom Russell focuses prove to be a colourful selection of companions ... [Russell] is good at bringing his favoured passengers to life ... Russell’s social observations are sharp and witty...the wider history he presents is packed with interesting details.