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Unsinkable: The Full Story of the RMS Titanic Paperback – March 6, 2012


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; Revised edition (March 6, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780306820984
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306820984
  • ASIN: 0306820986
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,471,353 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The familiar story of the RMS Titanic--from her tragic 10-second encounter with an iceberg to her descent to the bottom of the ocean some three hours later, taking with her more than 1,500 lives--still looms large in the popular imagination. Daniel Butler, a researcher and archivist, worked on this book for 30 years, intensively compiling facts not only about the event, but also about the characters who played an important role, from the actions of Captain Smith and his crew to the inescapable fate of the third-class passengers. He also offers the startling revelation of a nearby ship which ignored the Titanic's distress call because the shipmates were afraid to awaken their captain.

Unsinkable explores every facet of the Titanic's history, from its conception to a modern-day researcher's attempts to salvage the ship. The author presents a contemporary view of the crew and the passengers aboard, creating a better understanding of the time and the social psyche that played a role in the disaster. Also of note is Butler's enlistment of a clinical psychologist to analyze Captain Smith's mental state as the drama unfolded before him. Butler's passionate yet balanced narrative permits readers to conclude for themselves who or what was ultimately responsible for sinking the unsinkable ship. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Because the story is so dramatic, this retelling of the sinking of the Titanic is a page-turner, even though Butler, a Florida-based veteran of the U.S. Army and a Titanic buff, has little to add to what is already well known. He presents interesting information on the first four days of the voyage but otherwise recounts the mishaps that contributed to the tragedy: the failure of the ship's officers to heed the iceberg warnings; the tacit refusal of a nearby ship to come to the Titanic's aid; and the fact that the few lifeboats that fled the ship were only half full, leaving behind 1500 passengers to perish. Although Butler notes that a greater proportion of first-class male passengers were saved than third-class women, he theorizes foolishly that this was due more to a conditioned lack of initiative on the part of steerage passengers than to class discrimination. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 30, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Overall it's an interesting and thorough comprehensive rehashing of the Titanic sinking. I think he did go overboard in several of his assumptions. e.g. There is no indication from other sources that Major Arthur Peuchen cut a poor figure socially. I've read all the Toronto papers published during that week from the sinking to after the Carpathia docked and though his name was not mentioned as frequently as Mr. Charles Hays, it was near the top of every list of Canadians who were known to be on the ship, usually without explanation of who he was - so he was certainly well known in his home city, which was even then a substantial place. So, if the author assumes unsubstaniated things about one passenger's social standing, can I trust him fully when he discusses the disaster?
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Amy Russell on April 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Really excellent! This book must have taken a crazy amount of research. The author essentially synthesizes every book, diary, inquiry, and research project about the Titanic into a clear and readable storyline. The book reads like a novel, but is well-footnoted and is clearly grounded in the facts. One of the best features of this book is the way Butler takes quotes and memories from all (credible) sources and goes back to put them in the mouths of people as the events take place. For example, instead of writing that someone remembers John Jacob Astor saying something as the crew was loading life Boat #6, the author actually has Astor say it when he gets to that part of the story. This keeps the story's timeline much more linear and makes it easier to process. It follows the Titanic from her design and building through the investigations of her sinking. Butler wraps up with a "where are they now" synopsis of survivors and details the continuing salvage controversies.

Butler also takes time to explain historical contexts, such as class divisions and social expectations of the era, when he feels it will benefit the readers. These asides really help bring the motivations and behavior of the people involved in this tragedy to life, in a way some caricatures of poor schmucks stuck in steerage fail to do.

My only issues with the book are fairly minor. There is a glossary at the end, but I wish it were at the beginning (or at least referred to). If you aren't the seafaring type, it will help to learn the terms (like greaser, starboard, and bulkhead) before you start reading so that you can understand Butler's descriptions of the ship. You can get by without this, but it would help to know.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Gary on August 4, 2007
Format: Paperback
Historically accurate, and well researched. The book goes into far more detail about the ship, the passengers and the aftermath of this tragedy than any book I've read. However, I found the far too many direct quotes from Walter Lord's classic "A Night To Remember" annoying. Which in my opinion ,made "Unsinkable" a book to forget.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 23, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Butler has many mistakes that need to be corrected in this book. I counted 40 major needless errors. When writing a book on a subject like this is a difficult task. Butler took the easy way out by copying other people's work.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Frank Langben on October 13, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This replay of the Titanic story is best as it places the tragedy in the context of the social setting: "the men and women aboard the Titanic demonstrated almost every derogatory characteristic of Edwardian society: arrogance, pride, snobbery, prejudice, racism, chavinsim, and maudlin sentimentality. They also showed in equal measure the Edwardians' capacity for self-confidence, self-reliance, self-sacrifice, gallantry, noblesse oblige, and devotion to duty." The book also presents an interesting view on how the sinking affected the psyche of the age.
The book is also better than most at pointing out the precise physical reasons that most 3rd class passengers did not reach the lifeboats. It also goes into depth on the "women and children first" issue -- and even how that affected the women's suffrage movement. Overall, the tone of the book seems "balanced" -- while the author isn't afraid to assign blame, he seems to present the arguments pro and con.
The book surprisingly doesn't point out important facts. For instance, the Titanic had specially strengthened lifeboat davits that enabled lifeboats to be lowered while full. But no one bothered to tell, or train, the officers and men that the new davits allowed the boats to be lowered full -- THAT is the reason many boats were lowered half-empty, and hundreds died needlessly.
As a minor annoyance, the author uses inconsistent or confusing measurements. The Carpathia was 58 miles away at the time of the SOS (CQD), and sailed to the scene at 17 knots. Was that 58 statute or nautical miles? For the benefit of most of us, the author could have both specified whether he used nautical or statute mileage distance measurements, and also pointed out that 1 knot = 1 nautical mile per hour = 1.15 statute miles per hour.
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16 of 22 people found the following review helpful By MtnMan1963 on February 17, 2009
Format: Paperback
This guys owes quite a bit to A Night To Remember, reading both books side by side. No original research, certainly not "30 years" worth, and to judge by the number of errors he has managed to transfer from other books to his, he didn't do much fact checking on his own. He seems to have just skimmed what was out there, and did an overview. Too bad for him that computer software that can pick up this sort of "authorship" has come on line.

I've also looked over his venom-filled reviews of other books that I have to think he regards as competitors. He accuses other of profiting off of the disaster, but he pops this book out to coincide with the movie, and puts out another (shortly) to coincide with the 100th anniversary? Must be hard to speak out of both sides of one's mouth so loudly.

Stick with spinning tall tales to elderly passengers on cruise ships, Dan.
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