The Ship of Dreams

The Sinking of the Titanic and the End of the Edwardian Era

About The Book

In this original and meticulously researched narrative history, the author of the “stunning” (The Sunday Times) Young and Damned and Fair uses the sinking of the Titanic as a prism through which to examine the end of the Edwardian era and the seismic shift modernity brought to the Anglo-American world.

In April 1912, six notable people were among those privileged to experience the height of luxury—first class passage on “the ship of dreams,” the RMs Titanic: Lucy Leslie, Countess of Rothes; son of the British Empire, Tommy Andrews; American captain of industry John Thayer and his son Jack; Jewish-American immigrant Ida Straus; and American model and movie star Dorothy Gibson. Within a week of setting sail, they were all caught up in the horrifying disaster of the Titanic’s sinking, one of the biggest news stories of the century. Today, we can see their stories and the Titanic’s voyage as the beginning of the end of the established hierarchy of the Edwardian era.

Writing in his elegant signature prose and using previously unpublished sources, deck plans, journal entries, and surviving artifacts, Gareth Russell peers through the portholes of these first-class travelers to immerse us in a time of unprecedented change in British and American history. Through their intertwining lives, he examines social, technological, political, and economic forces such as the nuances of the British class system, the explosion of competition in the shipping trade, the birth of the movie industry, the Irish Home Rule Crisis, and the Jewish-American immigrant experience while also recounting their intimate stories of bravery, tragedy, and selflessness.

Masterful in its superb grasp of the forces of history, gripping in its moment-by-moment account of the sinking, revelatory in discounting long-held myths, and lavishly illustrated with color and black and white photographs, this absorbing, accessible, and authoritative account of the Titanic’s life and death is destined to become the definitive book on the subject.

About The Author

Photograph by Kelvin Boyes

Educated at Oxford University and Queens University, Belfast, Gareth Russell is a historian, novelist, and playwright. He is the author of The Ship of Dreams, Young and Damned and Fair, The Emperor, and An Illustrated Introduction to the Tudors. He lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atria Books (November 19, 2019)
  • Length: 448 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781501176746

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Raves and Reviews

"Gareth Russell has chosen a handful of passengers on the doomed liner and by training a spotlight on every detail of their lives, he has given us a meticulous, sensitive and at times harsh picture of the early twentieth century in Britain and America.  A marvellous piece of work."

– Julian Fellowes, creator of "Downton Abbey"

“Gareth Russell invites us into the first-class staterooms aboard the RMS Titanic and brings to life the Edwardian era and its elite—the exclusive circle of Europeans and Americans who wielded unimaginable wealth and influence on both sides of the Atlantic. Deeply researched and lushly detailed, The Ship of Dreams shines new light on both the bygone Golden Age and the iconic tragedy that marked the beginning of its end.”

– Lynn Vincent, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Indianapolis

“A meticulously researched retelling of history's most infamous voyage... Through the eyes of this select group of privileged individuals, we are witness to the end of a glamorous crossing and an era, neither of which could be sustained or remain afloat.” 

– Denise Kiernan, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Castle and Girls of Atomic City

“This absorbing account proves that there are many levels to the endless fascination of the Titanic story;  the key is to narrow the focus rather than try to be all-embracing. Thus, through his judicious choice of a handful of socially and culturally disparate passengers, Gareth Russell  skillfully constructs an eloquent and gripping narrative that is essentially a microcosm of the moribund Edwardian class system that would go down with the Titanic and finally be obliterated by war in 1914.” 

– Helen Rappaport, author of The Romanov Sisters

"Fascinating...Gareth Russell tells us the popular appreal of the Titanic outstrips that of every ship since Noah's ark. In his hands you can understand and witty...packed with interesting details."

– The Times

"With the Titanic story exhaustively explored ever since, is there anything left to learn? On the evidence of Gareth Russell's engrossing book, the answer is yes....This masterly reconstruction renders the Titanic story vital again."

– Mail on Sunday

"Gareth Russell is the first I am aware of who has...charted in detail the context for the Titanic's construction, launch, and eventual sinking--and the grief-laden reaction....It is a wonderful, multi-angled view of history and grips the reader as compellingly as a pacey historical or epic movie....a wonderful book, full of personalities, history, but most of all, suspense."

– Irish Independent

“If you think that there’s nothing new to say about the Titanic, The Ship of Dreams will prove you wrong. Just don’t read it on a cruise. In this fascinating and highly readable book, Belfast author Gareth Russell tells the story of the fatal ship’s sole journey through the eyes of six very different first-class passengers, from the Irish engineer Thomas Andrews to early film star Dorothy Gibson. He examines the rapidly changing world of the Edwardian upper classes, and shows how their privilege 'left many of them unaware or indifferent to the coming danger until it was too late'.”


– Irish Times

"Vivid, extraordinary story of human courage."

– Times Literary Supplement

"Elegantly written and impressively researched...a scrupulous and entertaining portrait of 'a world that was by turns victim and author  of the tragedies that overtook it.'"

– Publishers Weekly, starred review

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