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A Night to Remember by Walter Lord
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A Night to Remember (1955)

by Walter Lord

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1,673364,286 (4.03)87
  1. 20
    102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers by Jim Dwyer (Stbalbach)
    Stbalbach: Both use same technique of minute-by-minute disaster survivor vignettes.
  2. 00
    Titanic: A Night Remembered by Stephanie Barczewski (waltzmn)
    waltzmn: Books about the Titanic are a dime a dozen; I have ten or so. Few are more significant that A Night to Remember. But it is a thin book, and there are more details elsewhere. Of those other books, Stephanie Barczewski's is among the best -- new enough to use the information from the rediscovered wreck, well-researched, and full.… (more)
  3. 00
    The wreck of the Titan, or, Futility by Morgan Robertson (bookymouse)
  4. 00
    The Night Lives On: The Untold Stories & Secrets Behind the Sinking of the Unsinkable Ship-Titanic by Walter Lord (dukeallen)
  5. 12
    Raise the Titanic! by Clive Cussler (dukeallen)
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English (33)  Italian (1)  German (1)  All languages (35)
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Six-word review: Chilling chronicle of unimaginable maritime catastrophe.

Extended review:

In our time, a number of landmark events have been cited as turning points, the end of innocence, the time when doubt and cynicism took the place of optimism and faith. The bombing of Hiroshima. The assassination of President Kennedy. The attacks of 9/11.

Before that, there was the Titanic.

Says Walter Lord in this work of nonfiction: "Overriding everything else, the Titanic also marked the end of a general feeling of confidence. Until then men felt they had found the answer to a steady, orderly, civilized life.... The Titanic woke them up. Never again would they be quite so sure of themselves. In technology especially, the disaster was a terrible blow. Here was the "unsinkable ship"--perhaps man's greatest engineering achievement--going down the first time it sailed.... If it was a lesson, it worked--people have never been sure of anything since. The unending sequence of disillusionment that has followed can't be blamed on the Titanic, but she was the first jar. Before the Titanic, all was quiet. Afterward all was tumult. That is why, to anybody who lived at the time, the Titanic more than any other single event marks the end of the old days, and the beginning of a new, uneasy era." (chapter 7)

The next big event would be the start of World War I.

Born five years after the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, Lord was writing in 1955. After two world wars. Before Sputnik, before Apollo, before home computers and cellphones. Before Vietnam, before JFK. Before Unabomber and TSA and amber alerts. When CD stood for Civil Defense, not certificate of deposit and not compact disc, and we practiced "duck and cover" under our desks at school. However it may look now, that was no age of innocence. At the time of publication, only 43 years had passed since that April night, and the sinking of the greatest of all ships was still a living memory. And Lord, looking back over the interval and reflecting the spirit of the time, sees the loss of the Titanic as the boundary marker. That, it seems to me, is one of the three main messages of this book.

The other two are directly related to the disaster itself and not its aftermath. One is the number of things that had to go wrong in order for the vessel and 1500 lives to be lost. And every one of them--messages not delivered, warnings not taken, lifeboats not filled--everything did.

And the other is the overweening hubris of the designers, builders, and owners themselves, those who thought they could create something indestructible. Nothing is indestructible.

Lord's documentary chronicles the events immediately leading up to the Titanic's collision with the iceberg and everything that occurred thereafter, through the arrival of the few hundred survivors in New York. Key moments in the sequence are laid out in a timeline, minute by minute. Public and private accounts of the catastrophe are catalogued.

The main thread of the narrative is actually many interwoven threads. Lord follows the stories of various passengers, crew members, and distinguished personages, including the captain, the naval architect who oversaw the plans for the ocean liner, and the managing director of the Titanic's parent company, the White Star Line. Some are barely sketches, and some are detailed vignettes with extensive chronologies. Source material included written records and numerous eyewitness accounts, among which there was much conflicting information. The author went to considerable lengths to try to separate fiction, false memory, and folklore from fact, acknowledging that with no way to verify stories there could never be more than partial success.

Lord's journalistic style keeps the account from veering over into sensationalism, but it's impossible to tell a story as dramatic as this one without some feeling. As Lord depicts the overconfidence, ill-preparedness, disbelief, denial, and fatal inaction that contributed to the tragedy, he expresses a sorrow that seems both universal and personal. There is also admiration, awe, and perhaps even pride as he recounts the noble acts, the honorable behavior, and the self-sacrificing strength of character to which so many of the survivors owed their lives.

I prefer my history straight and not served up as infotainment, so I appreciate the amount of objectivity that Lord brings to the task, as well as the conscientious research. At the same time, the very things that make this a faithful history also take off a few points for readability: the quantities of corroborating detail, the occasional choppiness, the inevitable loose ends and unfinished stories. The book is worth a reader's attention, however, not just because, a century after the fact, that night to remember ought not to be overshadowed and forgotten but also because the lessons of the Titanic and its disastrous fate are just as applicable today. Innocence may have been lost a long time ago, but we have not learned to avoid the trap of overconfidence or truly come to terms with our collective vulnerability.

I dread to think what it would take.

An interesting footnote comes from Wikipedia: "In 1997, Lord served as a consultant to director James Cameron during the filming of the movie Titanic."

(Kindle edition) ( )
3 vote Meredy | Nov 21, 2014 |
(4.9)
  mshampson | Oct 15, 2014 |
This is a superb account of the last hours of the Titanic. The author doesn't overwhelm the reader with facts, but succinctly tells of this tragedy through the eyes of the survivors. I found myself turning the pages eagerly, wanting to see how it ended, and who would survive. The stories of courage and self-sacrifice touched me. Excellent read, sobering. ( )
1 vote fuzzi | Oct 4, 2014 |
As a child, I grew up watching the Titanic movie with the intense love drama of Jack and Rose as the great Titanic faces its greatest nightmare. At that time, that is the story I fell in love with.

However, after reading "A Night to Remember" by Walter Lord, I have found the Titanic tale I have been searching for. Lord presents a great, nervebreaking description of the night Titanic sank based on the stories of survivors and it is all kept as a historical documentation, above anything else. The eery silence as the seconds tick by the reader is introduced to a shipfull of characters, where they belong, and where they were heading. Instead of the great Jack and Rose, there's Lookout Fleet, Third Officer Charles Victor Groves, Capt. Smith, Mrs. Harris with the broken arm - The list goes on.

I recommend this book to anybody interested in the historical documentation of the disaster, and whom want to further investigate the Titanic.
  aliceludlow | Aug 8, 2014 |
A concise but interesting story of the sinking of the Titanic. Written in 1955, it contains a lot of conjecture, but is a accurate description of what actually happened. This is a history, not a novelization. ( )
  Karlstar | Feb 22, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (20 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lord, Walterprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jarvis, MartinNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Verga, CarlaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To my mother
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High in the crow's nest of the New White Star Liner Titanic, Lookout Frederick Fleet peered into a dazzling night.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Do not combine the book A Night to Remember with the 1958 movie of the same name!
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0805077642, Paperback)

James Cameron's 1997 Titanic movie is a smash hit, but Walter Lord's 1955 classic remains in some ways unsurpassed. Lord interviewed scores of Titanic passengers, fashioning a gripping you-are-there account of the ship's sinking that you can read in half the time it takes to see the film. The book boasts many perfect movie moments not found in Cameron's film. When the ship hits the berg, passengers see "tiny splinters of ice in the air, fine as dust, that give off myriads of bright colors whenever caught in the glow of the deck lights." Survivors saw dawn reflected off other icebergs in a rainbow of shades, depending on their angle toward the sun: pink, mauve, white, deep blue--a landscape so eerie, a little boy tells his mom, "Oh, Muddie, look at the beautiful North Pole with no Santa Claus on it."

A Titanic funnel falls, almost hitting a lifeboat--and consequently washing it 30 yards away from the wreck, saving all lives aboard. One man calmly rides the vertical boat down as it sinks, steps into the sea, and doesn't even get his head wet while waiting to be successfully rescued. On one side of the boat, almost no males are permitted in the lifeboats; on the other, even a male Pekingese dog gets a seat. Lord includes a crucial, tragically ironic drama Cameron couldn't fit into the film: the failure of the nearby ship Californian to save all those aboard the sinking vessel because distress lights were misread as random flickering and the telegraph was an early wind-up model that no one wound.

Lord's account is also smarter about the horrifying class structure of the disaster, which Cameron reduces to hollow Hollywood formula. No children died in the First and Second Class decks; 53 out of 76 children in steerage died. According to the press, which regarded the lower-class passengers as a small loss to society, "The night was a magnificent confirmation of women and children first, yet somehow the loss rate was higher for Third Class children than First Class men." As the ship sank, writes Lord, "the poop deck, normally Third Class space ... was suddenly becoming attractive to all kinds of people." Lord's logic is as cold as the Atlantic, and his bitter wit is quite dry.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:35:47 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Recounts the demise of the "unsinkable" Titanic, the massive luxury liner that housed extravagances such as a French "sidewalk cafe" and a grand staircase, but failed to provide enough lifeboats for the 2,207 passengers on board.

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