This book is the first of a tide marking next year’s centenary of the sinking of the Titanic, the greatest peacetime shipwreck in history. The disaster has cemented itself into the national psyche and, as Frances Wilson points out in this playful addition to the voluminous Titanic literature, the story extends well beyond a band that played on. Vanity, fin de siècle, the sad absurdity of life, how we live with the consequences of our actions – Wilson deals deftly with all this and more.
Her focus is the 49-year-old J Bruce Ismay, chairman and managing director of the White Star Line, the company that built the Titanic. Ismay inherited the immensely profitable White Star from his father, but had sold it to J P Morgan before the intervention of the famous iceberg. At