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Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage: The Titanic's First-Class Passengers and Their World Hardcover – March 27, 2012

4.3 out of 5 stars 208 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Brewster’s nuanced account introduces us to a plutocracy frolicking in the sunset of England’s Edwardian era and America’s Gilded Age.  He pushes past stereotypes to vividly describe the elite realm on deck”
New York Times Book Review

“You needn’t be an avid Titanic scholar or enthusiast to find this story spellbinding.  No fiction author could ever concoct a tale of greater tragedy, irony, pathos, ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys,’ heroism, cowardice, wealth and poverty.”
Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star

“[A] brilliant account of the first-class passengers who went down with the ship, giving us a glimpse into a Gilded Age about to disappear forever….Brewster's method is simple and highly entertaining.”
-- Minneapolis Star-Tribune

"classy…delicious, wonderfully readable”
-- Christian Science Monitor

“A lively tour through the lives of a handful of noteworthy first-class passengers”
San Antonio Express-News

“This is one of those rare books on the subject that provides information both new and relevant, in a scholarly but readable way. Highly recommended to anyone interested in the social history of the early 20th century.”
Library Journal (starred review)

“[A]n impressive amount of information, often directly pulling from firsthand accounts. The author vividly renders the collision, the sinking, the chilling wail of unseen swimmers calling from the cold water and the shipwreck's aftermath....a welcome, interesting addition to Titanic-related literature.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Full of delicious details, from champagne flutes to the careless luxe of furs and satin, this is a spell-binding story, fresh, original and totally absorbing.”
--Marian Fowler, author of In a Gilded Cage
“Focuses on an area of the disaster that has long been overlooked ––that of the prominent people who were involved....a compelling account of who they were and how this select group of names came together in one enormous tragedy.”
–Don Lynch, author of Titanic: An Illustrated History and Ghosts of the Abyss
“A fascinating and engaging account of the Titanic disaster....a definite "must-read" for the centenary of the Titanic disaster, and I feel certain it will quickly be regarded as a standard work on the subject.”
--George Behe, author of On Board RMS Titanic and The Carpathia and the Titanic

About the Author

Hugh Brewster has twenty-five years of experience in creating books about the Titanic as an editor, publisher, and writer. He worked with Robert D. Ballard to produce the 1987 international bestseller The Discovery of the Titanic and oversaw the creation of Titanic: An Illustrated History, a book that provided inspiration for James Cameron’s epic movie.  Brewster is also the author of Inside the Titanic, 882 1/2 Amazing Answers to All Your Questions About the Titanic, and Deadly Voyage and has written twelve award-winning books for young readers, including Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose, which was chosen as one of the best books of 2007 by the Washington Post. He lives in Toronto.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; First edition (March 27, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307984702
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307984708
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (208 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #758,824 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
To write a book of this scope, an author also needs to be a detective and a historian as well. Hugh Brewster skillfully pulls back the Victorian curtain and reveals the private lives of the Titanic passengers the reader thought they knew. Most Titanic books focus on the present voyage, but the author takes us back to their beginnings and what brought them to the Titanic.

We read about Lady Lucile and her encounters with Lillie Langtry and Oscar Wilde; Artist Frank Millet's struggle with his sexuality; Clinch Smith and his unhappy marriage; The sweet courtship of Henry and Rene Harris where she called him 'Mr. Freshy'; And so on...

The author weaves these back stories into the voyage as the Titanic moves toward its destiny with an iceberg. Newly uncovered details enhance the day-by-day crossing and the make the final few hours for some, more heartbreaking.

Having finished the book, readers like myself feel like they have learned something new on the subject, which is the mark of a great author. This is definitely one of the top three Titanic books you should own.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Love this book. Couldn't put it down. These are the things I like to read about. All the little details of peoples lives, the way they lived, where they came from, what happened to them. This book gave me an insight into another world I always wanted to visit. I didn't realize so many people had connections to others on the Titanic. Just about everybody knew another family or families traveling on the ship, especially in 1st class. I never knew the 1st class survivors took up a collection for the poor who literally lost everything they owned, just to give them a chance to survive in America. So many pictures I've never seen before put faces to names. Glad I ordered this book and am ready to read it again.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Quite a few good books have been released recently in anticipation of the centennial of the sinking of the luxury steamship Titanic. This book looks at the gilded age which essentially gave birth to this ship, the passengers who were part of strata of society that traveled first class, the sinking of the Titanic, the lives lost, and the survivors.
This book profiles many of the prominent and wealthy first class passengers, providing background information as well as the reason for their being on the Titanic. For many, they were returning to the United States following a grand tour of the capitals of Europe or returning after stays in their second homes (a practice favored by many Americans of wealthy circumstances). The names that popped up on the passenger list were either legendary or would become so. Astor and Strauss are among the most prominent, while J. Pierpoint Morgan managed to avoid the Titanic only to die the next year. Margaret Brown, a Denver socialite, became known as unsinkable and "Molly". There are interesting and often gossipy stories imbedded in the narrative. We find that Benjamin Guggenheim is booked on the Titanic with his newest mistress located a respectable distance down the hall. Writer Helen Candee is romantically involved with a younger scoundrel. They both survive, but her love interest soon moves on to a younger woman.
This book is loaded with great stories and small vignettes related to the sinking, the search for victims, and the fates of the living.
It also looks at the sinking as a harbinger of a world in flux; the gilded age would soon come to an abrupt end with the introduction of an income tax, the world would be at war, and a depression would greatly diminish personal fortunes.
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Format: Hardcover
Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage is what the title says it is: the story or rather stories of the wealthy and distinguished passengers aboard the Titanic. While not perhaps on the same level of excellence as Walter Lord's A Night to Remember or its sequel, The Night Lives On, this book is an exceptionally detailed and involving read.

I think the reason some readers have called this book "boring" (I didn't find it so) is because it delves into things that are perhaps not of great interest to some readers, such as, the invention of the Marconi telegraph system, and the backstory of the White Star line and its eventual merger into the International Merchant Marine - but, I thought the author wove these tangents into the personal histories of the first-class passengers very intelligently.

There is something just a little abrupt about the end of the book. The ship sinks; what passengers are alive are rescued by the Carpathia - and that's that. Well, not exactly - there are paragraph epilogues provided about the lives of the surviving first-class passengers post-Titanic. But by the end, all the author's lavish detail and extensive recounting of the backgrounds and lives of these particular passengers, is just kind of - well, just "there", without any summing-up. What did it all mean? What did THEY mean, in the larger scheme of things? Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage is not a shallow or silly book by any means - and yet, I was left with a hollow feeling when I was done.
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Format: Hardcover
I really enjoyed reading this book. Every page is filled with fascinating information about some of its passangers, mainly the wealthier ones. It's obvious that the author did a thorough research and it's written in such a way that although we know the ending, the book still manages to keep you on the edge of your seat! Highly recommended to any Titanic fan!
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