Titanic: The Untold Story
by W. Mae Kent
Reviewed by Margaret Donsbach
Inspired by the story of the Titanic's black passenger, Titanic: The Untold Story starts with an irresistible hook: a ten-year-old New Orleans boy must hide in a coffin as a stowaway to escape to his father in France after he angers a violent white man. Seventeen years later in 1912, he and his white wife and their children embark for America on the doomed, supposedly unsinkable Titanic. While centered on Nathan Badeau Legarde and his wife, the story also follows a white couple, Helen Ryerson and her long-ago beau Gerard.
Nathan, a dignified and intelligent engineer with a hot temper, must cope with a pervasive atmosphere of racism aboard ship, from social cuts to attempts on his life. His wife suffers similarly, but her most difficult challenge is Nathan's prejudiced attitude toward women: he believes his talented, artistic wife should be satisfied to stay home and care for their children. Meanwhile, Helen's selfish relatives have saddled her with the care of her mentally handicapped sister, the reason she could not marry the man she loved. When he turns up aboard the Titanic, she struggles to muster up enough courage to defy her relatives and snatch a long-deferred chance for happiness.
While the story itself is riveting, the storytelling style is unpolished, lacking many of the sensory details that could more richly evoke the characters' world. The characters often seem oversimplified, and their dialogue can be jarringly contemporary; for example, when confronted with a stuttering steward, Nathan snaps, "Oh, spit it out man." Finally, this edition, self-published through BookSurge, is riddled with typographical errors. But the plot movement in Titanic: The Untold Story is so consistently strong, many readers will be willing to overlook these flaws, especially in light of the intriguing subject. (2008, 413 pages)
See listing for Titanic: The Untold Story at Amazon.com
Other novels about the Titanic:
A Good Woman by Danielle Steel (2008), about a wealthy young New Yorker whose life is changed when the Titanic sinks. More info
Wave Cry by Alexander Fullerton (1999), about an Irishwoman traveling to America whose husband and small son are prevented from joining her on the lifeboat when the Titanic sinks. More info
Every Man for Himself by Beryl Bainbridge (1996), about an American passenger related to the owner of the shipping line that built and operated the Titanic. More info
Nonfiction about the Titanic:
The Titanic Experience: The Legend of the Unsinkable Ship by Beau Riffenburgh (2009), includes 200 photographs of the ship and wreck, and facsimiles of Titanic memorabilia such as tickets and telegrams. More info
Last Dinner on the Titanic: Menus and Recipes from the Great Liner by Rick Archbold (1997), recreate the Titanic's luxurious meals in your home kitchen. More info
The Story of the Titanic as Told by its Survivors by Lawrence Beesley (1960). More info
At the Movies:
Titanic, James Cameron's 1997 blockbuster movie starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio.
Article about Joseph Laroche, the man whose story inspired Titanic: The Untold Story.
RMS Titanic the website of a company formed to conduct underwater explorations of the Titanic wreck; some pages are available only to registered users, but others, such as the page about the second-class smoking room Joseph Laroche would have used, can be viewed by casual browsers.
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