Monday, July 18, 2011

Book Review: The Band That Played On: The Extraordinary Story of the Eight Musicians Who Went Down with the Titanic by Steve Turner

The Band that Played On: The Extraordinary Story of the 8 Musicians Who Went Down with the Titanic 

Published by: Thomas Nelson
Published on: March 22, 2011
Page count: 256
Genre: Nonfiction
My reading format: Advanced reading copy in Adobe Digital Editions from NetGalley
Available formats: Hardcover

Prior to reading this book, all that I knew about the musicians aboard the Titanic was what I saw in the blockbuster movie version featuring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. Watching them play together on the ship's deck as passengers loaded up in the lifeboats for me was the saddest part, probably because I knew the rest of the story but was learning about these eight men for the first time. I first heard about this book from another friend's reading blog (check it out) and was interested to learn something about these heroes.

The book neatly outlined a review of the Titanic disaster, the men who hired the musicians for the voyage, each of the eight men, what their days on the ship would have been like pre-shipwreck, eyewitness accounts of the men playing while the ship sank, how each of the men's families began to survive without them and investigations into the disaster. In the chapters for each musician, I learned surprising and interesting details about each of the men. Some of the details spooked me out a bit, such as the fact that one of the violinists' prized violin, given to him by his fiancee, went missing for years. The author spent quite a bit of time it seems trying to track it down, and the family of the musician and his fiancee were so tight-lipped about its whereabouts that even Turner was left still guessing. Another interesting fact was that the media was obsessed with covering the Titanic disaster and the focus really didn't shift away from the shipwreck until the start of World War I two years later. Turner also says that had these eight men not died at sea, many of them would have likely been drafted to fight in the war, and may or may not have survived. I thought the two brothers, Frederick and Charlie Black, who acted as placement agents for the musicians and hired them to play aboard the Titanic, seemed pretty slimy and did very little to redeem themselves in my mind after the shipwreck.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I learned a lot of interesting facts and enjoyed the first-hand accounts. It was obvious to me Turner did an exhaustive amount of research to create this book, and I do love to read a book where it seems not stone has been left unturned.

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