No other ship in history has attracted so much attention, stirred up such powerful emotion, or accumulated as many legends and myths as Titanic. "Unsinkable" is a fresh look at this incredible story, one that centers on the people who built the ship, crewed her, and sailed on her. It follows the great ship as she grows on the ways at Harland & Wolff in Belfast, sails from Southampton toward her unexpected rendezvous with an iceberg, then slowly sinks into the North Atlantic, forever shattering the optimistic complacency of her era. The story doesn't end there, however, for the tale continues through the high drama of the U.S. Senate investigation and the British Board of Trade inquiry, then introduces the "mystery ship" Californian, whose officers watched Titanic sink and did nothing for fear of being subjected to their sleeping captain's wrath. The narrative then carries on with the recovery of many of Titanic's dead and their interment at Halifax, Nova Scotia, through the discovery of the wreck in 1985, and finally to the abortive 1996 expedition to raise a section of her rusted hull.
A Titanic buff for the last 30 years, Butler has assembled a well-researched and balanced account of the disaster and aftermath, drawing on first-person accounts and solid secondary sources. Although not heavily illustrated like John P. Eaton and Charles A. Haas's classic Titanic: Triumph and Tragedy (LJ 8/87) or Titanic Voices (LJ 9/1/97), Butler's text uses vivid survivor narratives and anecdotes to capture both the feel of Edwardian society and life aboard a North Atlantic liner. He presents all sides of controversial issues without making clear which side he prefers. Finally, his treatment of the discovery of the shipwreck and subsequent salvage attempts is both timely and informative. A solid work that should serve public and academic libraries well. [Readers may want this book to find out just how many liberties were taken in the popular new Titanic film. Ed.] John Kenny, San Francisco P.L. Chafe
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. (Apr.) Lopate
[This is] a well-researched and balanced account. . . . Although not heavily illustrated, . . . Butler's text uses vivid survivor narratives and anecdotes to capture both the feel of Edwardian society and life aboard a North Alantic liner. He presents all sides of controversial issues without making clear which side he prefers. Finally, his treatment of the discovery of the shipwreck and subsequent salvage attempts is both timely and informative. A solid work that should serve public and academic libraries well. Annotation copyright H.W. Wilson Company. Freeman