Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Band that Played On, by Steve Turner, is a recounting of the tragedy of the Titanic, focusing on the lives of the eight musicians who went down with the ship. Each of the eight musicians’ lives, prior to their voyage on the Titanic, is chronicled in their own chapter. They were all young, respectable men, leading relatively uneventful lives, who were passionate about their craft. Their deaths were hailed as heroic by surviving witnesses. This is the first biography to focus on the lives of these men, and for connoisseurs of Titanic history, it will be well received.

Regrettably, The Band that Played On, was not well received by me. Most of the tale was written in the style of a monotone history book. These men did not have noteworthy lives prior to their experience on the Titanic, and as such, did not make for interesting reading material. The interesting parts of the book were near the end, and unfortunately, contained much speculation as to what the musicians must have been doing during the sinking. Granted, there were many accounts reported of witnesses hearing the band’s music while disembarking to the lifeboats, but they are very contradictory. The author attempts to sort through these accounts and come up with a best case scenario as to the actual occurrences, but in truth, just overstated the possibilities. I felt like if I read the phrase, "Nearer my God to thee" again, I was going to have to throw in the towel. Ultimately, Turner ends the book with a sort of obituary tribute to each of the men. Ironically enough, this is the part I found most interesting. Contrary to the relatively uneventful lives of the men before the Titanic, some of their surviving family members went on to have some entertaining experiences.

So, while I will not recommend this book to my friends as an entertaining biography, I do recognize it’s merit as a worthy historical compilation. Steve Turner was very thorough in his research and retelling of a familiar tragic tale, with a unique perspective.

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