Recycled #Review: A Night To Remember by Walter Lord

RecycledReviews-blueThis review of Walter Lord’s A Night To Remember was first posted at my old Flights-a-Fancy blog on 6/6/12, and I’ve decided to recycle it today.

Night to RememberA Night To Remember/
by Walter Lord
Henry Holt, 2005 edition
Trade Paperback (from library)

It has been over one hundred years since the Titanic disaster, and people are still fascinated by the ship and her fate. Lord’s classic account of the sinking is still noteworthy for the painstaking detail, much of it based on eyewitness accounts by survivors still alive in 1955. Step by step, he takes us through the events of that night, starting with the lookouts who didn’t see the iceberg in time because the binoculars they were supposed to be using were locked in a chest and the key was in London. (The result of a last-minute change in the officers assigned to the ship.)

We hear from people from all three passenger classes – the very wealthy, the middle class, and the lowly immigrants – and crew members from the officers to humble stewards. Though at times the book reads like fiction, it is not. He did an impressive amount of research which is detailed in the Acknowledgements section at the end. From the retrospective of the 21st century, the book represents an impressive undertaking in a world of print-only resources.

film posterI also rented the film, produced in 1958, but it wasn’t the movie I remembered from my childhood. That one was Titanic, starring Clifton Webb, which came out two years before Lord’s book. The film version of A Night To Remember is a British production starring Kenneth More as Second Officer Lightoller and a young David McCallum as Officer Lord. I was surprised at first to realize A Night To Remember was filmed in black and white, but I soon understood why. By not using color, they were able to mix archival footage of the actual ship with the movie reels. So we see the Titanic being christened and sailing off from Southampton as it really happened. There was no such thing as CGI in 1958!

For the best sense of what it might have been like to actually be on the Titanic, nothing can beat James Cameron’s 1997 epic. Like the fictional love story or despise it, the special effects are overwhelming and incredible. In my opinion, it deserved the Oscar simply for being a monumental and innovative piece of moviemaking. And the musical score is both beautiful and haunting.

After reading A Night To Remember, I think I understand why the story of the Titanic still draws us. It was one of the greatest disasters of all time, and it changed maritime history (and law) forever. But at its heart, it’s a very human story– of arrogance and hubris, negligence, bad luck and denial, bravery and cowardice, indifference and sacrifice. A testament to the bad and the good to be found in human nature. And for that reason, it is a story that will live forever in human memory.

At the end of a recent documentary on the Titanic, James Cameron talks about the ship as a microcosm of 1912 society, with its class distinctions. He also sees the image of the unwieldy ship sailing into the iceberg as a metaphor for a continent about to go over a cliff and into one of the most destructive and unnecessary wars of all time. (WWI) And then he talked about how things are not much different now. We are headed for an iceberg called “global climate change” and it’s too late to correct the system in time to prevent the crash.

If you haven’t read this book, I do recommend it.


First posted at Flights-a-Fancy 6/6/12

Book Review Club: Animal Acts #amreading

Last month my Eclectic Readers Group got creative with a topic called Animal Acts which meant books written from the animal’s point of view, so today I’m sharing the three books I read. No one who knows me well will be surprised that I picked three books with canine main characters.

Dog Who Knew Too MuchThe Dog Who Knew Too Much
by Spencer Quinn
(Chet and Bernie Mystery series, Book 4)
Atria Books, 2011

This is a really fun series featuring private investigator Bernie Little and his canine companion Chet, a mixed breed dog who didn’t pass his final exam for the K-9 corps. Chet doesn’t remember exactly what went wrong but he’s pretty sure a cat was involved. The books are written entirely in Chet’s point of view.

In this installment, Chet and Bernie are hired by a woman named Anya as protection against her ex-husband when she goes into the mountains to visit her son, Devin at camp. However, when they get there, they learn Devin has gone missing from an overnight camp out. This all takes place in the mountains of another, unnamed state. (Sounds like Colorado to me, but states are never specified in this series, at least not so far. Geography isn’t Chet’s strong suit; grabbing perps by the pant leg is.)

It doesn’t take our intrepid sleuths long to figure out something is rotten in the unnamed country. The sheriff and judge are obviously corrupt and up to their ears in whatever casued Devin’s disappearance. When Chet finds the camp counselor who led Devin’s group dead inside an old gold mine, Bernie is inexplicably arrested for his murder. It’s up to Chet, who makes his way back home, and their friend, reporter Susie Sanchez to rescue Bernie. Chet is hilarious, as always, esp. the scene where he shows up alone at home and is taken in by the neighbor, Mr. Parsons, owner of Chet’s best friend Iggy. The two dogs are so delighted to be together, they go romping around the house, knocking things over. As Chet is leaving with Susie, she asks him if he was a good guest just as they pass the plumber on his way in to fix the toilet full of little guest soaps he and Iggy knocked over.

In the end, all works out well, of course, except for Bernie’s finances, which never work out well. Very enjoyable series and often quite funny.

Popular Amazon Kindle highlight: Sometimes big questions pop up in life. For example: was steak still on the menu or not?

A Dog's PurposeA Dog’s Purpose
by W. Bruce Cameron
Forge Books 2010

Another book written entirely from the dog’s POV. In this book, the same dog is reincarnated four times as different dogs. First, he’s a feral puppy nicknamed Toby by Senora, the woman who takes in stray dogs. The first life is short and not very happy. Next, he is reborn as a pure-bred Golden Retriever at a puppy farm in Michigan in the 1960’s. He remembers his brief life as Toby, including how his mother escaped from Senora’s compound by opening the gate. Using that knowledge, he escapes from the puppy farm and wanders off down the road. He eventually comes to live with a family that has a little boy named Ethan. It’s love at first sight between Ethan and the puppy he names Bailey. This is his happiest life; his only purpose to love his boy. Two more lives follow, but I won’t go into more details.

Since before my husband died, I’ve primarily read what I like to call fluff: lighthearted, funny books that don’t make me feel anything but amusement. Life is much easier this way. Until I read this book. I really liked it, though it tugged on my emotions more than any other book I’ve read in a while. I laughed a lot, and I cried, several times. Cameron’s writing is philosophical and made me think. I love the idea of dogs reincarnating and perhaps reuniting with people they’ve known before. Recommended for animal lovers, esp. dog lovers.

My favorite line occurs after Ethan’s family has buried the family cat, Smokey: The next day, when Mom and the boy left for school, I went out into the yard and dug Smokey back up, figuring they couldn’t have meant to bury a perfectly good dead cat. That still cracks me up, though I’m still wondering what is so good about a dead cat.

Paw Enforcement coverPaw Enforcement
by Diane Kelly
First in Paw Enforcement series
St. Martin’s, 2014

Fort Worth Police Officer Megan Luz almost loses her job when she tasers her partner in the privates. (The guy kind of deserved it. What a jerk.) Megan is half Irish, half Mexican, with a temper. The chief gives her another chance by re-assigning her to the K-9 unit where she is partnered with a German Shepherd named Brigit. It’s not exactly love at first sight. The last thing Megan needs in her postage-sized studio apartment is a huge furry roommate, not to mention fitting the dog into her Smart Car. She and Brigit battle for dominance, at first, though Megan comes to respect Brigit’s abilities as a police dog. Brigit is much better behaved on the job than off, resulting in some funny situations.

Favorite section: When Megan brings Brigit to mass with her, she slips the dog half of her Communion wafer, which Brigit promptly hacks back up. Grabbing Brigit’s leash, I hustled her out the back doors and into the foyer. Before I could stop her, she’d dragged me over to the font, propped her front legs on it, and lapped up a mouthful of holy water.

The point of view varies from Megan (first person ) to short third person excerpts from Brigit and a bomber who thinks of himself as The Rattler. When Brigit alerts at a trash can in the mall food court, Megan discovers a bomb in time to evacuate everyone. Only she and Brigit are wounded. Later, when Brigit licks tuna out of Megan’s hair, the Rattler is named the Tunabomber by the media, much to his disgust and anger. This is just the first bombing.

I enjoyed this mystery. There’s a budding romance between Megan and a fireman from the bomb squad named Seth, not to mention Brigit and Seth’s dog. Cute book for mystery fans and/or dog lovers.

As always, click on the graphic below for more great reviews in Barrie Summy’s Book Review Club.


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