The ship of dreams – REVIEW

Litercurious Book Review

TitleThe Ship Of Dreams: The Sinking of the
Titanic and the End of the Edwardian Era 
AuthorGareth Russell
PublisherAtria Books (November 19, 2019)
FormatKindle, Audiobook, Paperback, and Hardcover
Pages 448
ISBN #ISBN-10: 1501176722
ISBN-13: 978-1501176722
Nearer, my God, to Thee
Captain Edward Smith, of the RMS Titanic. “Be British.”

Captain Smith was the biggest hero I ever saw.”

Robert Williams Daniel, First Class Passenger & survivor of the RMS Titanic sinking. Citation 19.


Gareth Russell is the author of The Ship of Dreams. If you would like to read more about him, please click here. You can find Gareth on Facebook here.


Those with an interest in the Edwardian era, the British Empire at its zenith or those who enjoy maritime drama played out against that tapestry will appreciate this manuscript. Other interested parties may include students of history, educators, and university professors.


Russell’s, The Ship of Dreams is much more than a run of the mill retelling of the loss of the Titanic. He has taken the stance to elaborate and expand the remit to include: political, social, and economic events shortly before the advent of the Great War. He focuses on a group of six affluent passengers of the late lamented ship. He observes the tumultuous events beginning in Edwardian era that led to a seismic change in the place of the aristocracy and landed gentry of Great Britain. Russell goes on to describe how they and the ‘new monied’ plutocrats opulent lifestyles were about to be changed forever by a series of National politics, social and Global cataclysmic events. Events that would change the lifestyles of these elite strata of society fundamentally for generations. Russell cleverly interconnects their lives together, adding context against which to paint the tragic events surrounding the loss of Royal Merchant Ship (RMS) Titanic on her fateful maiden voyage. 

Russell takes time to introduce the characters and their background information for the first quarter of the manuscript. This may be a disappointment to some however I found the social commentary and the details of the characters individual lives to be fascinating.

The cast of characters that Russell chose to focus our attention on are as follows:

1.     Thomas Andrews, Managing Director of the Harland and Wolff shipyard.

2.     Countess of Rothes, an aristocrat of the Leslie family and wife of Norman Leslie the 19th Earl of Rothes.

3.     Dorothy Gibson, the highest paid actress in the world at that time.

4.     The Strauss’ Ida and Isidore, joint owners of Macey’s.

5.     John Thayer, an executive with the Pennsylvania Railroad Company.

6.     Jack Thayer 17 year old son of John Thayer.  

Before the sinking of the Titanic in April 1912, the dying had already begun. The first was Mr. James Dobbin, a forty-three-year-old shipwright struck by a beam as the ship was launched shattering his pelvis. He died the next day of his injuries. 

Russell has managed to produce a heavily researched and compelling read, complete with extensive footnotes and a vast array of monochrome photographs. His narrative brings the Titanic back to life; her gargantuan size, grandeur, and sheer opulence lives again, at least in the mind of the reader.  

I was pleased to see that Russell scuttled the myths and the tropes that have followed the tale of the Titanic since she went to Davy Jones locker. He debunked the lies repeated across time of the Third Class Passengers (AKA Steerage) having been locked in whilst the First Class passengers were prioritized. In addition, the disparaging allegations that certain characters dressed as women to sneak aboard the lifeboats were also disproved. Most important, were the claims attacking the character of Captain (AKA Commodore) Edward Smith.

At approximately 23:40 on the evening of 14 April 1912 with the sea so calm it was like glass the RMS’ luck ran out when she attempted to prevent a direct hit with an iceberg. As a result of the course change, the Titanic’s hull was breached 300 feet along the length of the ship. From that moment she was living on borrowed time. 1,100+ passengers and crew had barely noted how serious the incident was until it was too late. A brief 160 minutes later on 15 April 1912, all but 705 of the people on board had less than 15 minutes to live.


Russell has provided an original account of an often told tale. He corrects some of the many errors and provides previously unseen photographs and new information about the infamous incident. Russell’s writing style reminded me of Erik Larson, an author I hold in high esteem. The drama doesn’t end when the ship sinks beneath the waves to her watery grave. In many ways the drama simply switches location and ratchets up on both sides of the Atlantic. Russell details the changes arising from the investigations, both good and bad. The author did manage to capture the humanity and tragedy whilst keeping the familiar story fresh and exciting. Well written throughout with solid prose and a clear logical writing approach

Russell has given us an invaluable insight into the tragedy of the events that catastrophic evening. May the RMS Titanic and her passengers rest in peace.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.


I would like to thank Gareth Russell, NetGalley, and Atria Books for affording me the opportunity to review The Ship Of Dreams: The Sinking of the Titanic and the End of the Edwardian Era. 

Leave a Reply