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Book Review, NRJ 59.1

February 15, 2014 12:00 PM | David Eddy

Titanic Voices: 63 Survivors Tell Their Extraordinary Stories

Hannah Holman

The author of Titanic Voices, Hannah Holman, provides an objective presentation of the experiences of those who witnessed the legendary sinking. Holman worked to ensure that this book gave readers the opportunity to better understand the event through the words of those most closely related to it. She did not want to create another reinterpretation of the tragedy, but she does build off the interest created by popular films and novels. The book appeals to the general public, and Holman’s direct presentation of the information makes it accessible to the average individual interested in the subject.

Holman chose to satisfy her childhood intrigue with the sinking of Titanic and her passions for the subject by creating this book as a side project outside of her career. The author received her degree in English Literature from the University of Birmingham, which provided substantial training in the area of investigative reading needed for the inclusion of first-hand accounts in her book. Her educational background also gave her the necessary writing ability to author this piece, her first book.

The author relied on the narratives of survivors for the majority of her book, but did reach out to respected authors well versed in the subject, such as Tad Fitch and George Behe, to assist her in providing additional information on the event. The supplementary information allowed Holman to establish the context needed to comprehend the first-hand accounts, derived from newspaper interviews, the United States Senate Inquiry, and the British Board of Trade Inquiry. Holman arranged the testimonies in chronological order to display the transition in the tone of the individuals as the ship sank further into the cold Atlantic waters, and to illustrate that class had an impact on the order in which individuals escaped. The book also contains a mid-section collection of photographs, drawings, and newspaper clippings that assist the reader in visualizing the authors of the narratives and the events described in their accounts.

Despite the interesting and informative accounts, Holman does not contribute to the compilation of academic studies in this field. As opposed to a critical analysis of the sources, documented by a list of references, that supports an original thesis, the author provides merely a collection of primary sources. This omission does not mean the book lacks value. Holman’s work allows researchers easily to access otherwise unknown or difficult to locate resources, and could be a good starting point for students, enthusiasts and professionals.

The casual Titanic enthusiast will consider this piece a desirable addition to their bookshelves. While Holman does not fill the role of a typical academic study, she has provided a unique product to the assortment of publications in this popular genre. Holman presented an unusually large collection of eyewitness testimonies, which includes the experiences of second and third class passengers; individuals often forgotten. Her timely publication, within a year of the one hundredth anniversary of the sinking, will undoubtedly help to fulfill the growing interest in the general public to further their knowledge on the experiences of those who survived the horrendous disaster. 

  • Gloucestershire: Amberley Publishing, 2011
  • 9 ¼” X 6 ¼”, hardcover, 436 pages
  • Introduction, images, further reading
  • ISBN: 9781445602226

Reviewed by Martha Tye, University of West Florida

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