Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Maiden Voyages

  Maiden Voyages: Magnificent Ocean Liners and the Women Who Traveled and Worked Aboard Them
Author:  Sian Evans
Publication Information:  St. Martin's Press. 2021. 368 pages.
ISBN:  1250246466 / 978-1250246462

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "In 1908, at the age of twenty-one, Violet Jessop embarked upon her maiden voyage as a stewardess on the Orinoco, a steamer sailing to and from the West Indies carrying mail, cargo and passengers."

Favorite Quote:  "But for the women on board the ocean liner, the great ship offers hope, opportunity, romance. Whether they are travelling for leisure or pleasure, by virtue of their celebrity or to preserve their anonymity, as matrons, migrants or millionairesses, as passengers or staff, the journey they undertake will change their lives for ever."

This book is a fascinating view on history as it traverses the early twentieth century through a set of lenses superimposed upon each other. Women - from the well known to the otherwise lost in history. Transatlantic travels after a world war. Ocean liners - ships that during the long transatlantic trip created self-contained world on themselves.

The book is an anecdotal history, presenting a lot of history, a lot of facts about the ocean liners and about  the woman featured in each chapter. The stories of the women are as different as the women themselves and provide a vision on economics, politics, immigration, gender roles, and so many other aspects of society. "Maiden Voyages is a celebration of the diverse journeys made by a number of intrepid heroines, drawn from many countries and different classes."

As with any book of this nature, some women's stories prove more engaging and memorable than others.  There is the story of women who survived the voyage of the Titanic. There is the story of the dancer and singer from the American South who made Paris her home. There is the story of the woman who served as a ship's engineer during World War II. There is the story of the Olympic champion turned coach turned hostess. There is the woman who lost her sister in the sinking of the Lusitania. There is the immigrant who sought to find the American dream by scraping together enough money for a one-way third-class ticket.

Each story stands somewhat independently of each other. As such, there were points I vested in the story of the woman more than the history but that does not develop fully given the focus and structure of the book. I find myself ending sections wanting to follow the woman and find out what happens next in her story. Since the focus

At almost 400 pages, this book provides a lot of details, some of which, for me, was not needed for the impact of the book. It is nevertheless an interesting and unique look into history. At the end of the day, I respond to the story of strong women rising to the challenges facing them, overcoming obstacles, and breaking barriers. That is a lesson for all of us, and finding inspiration is that is my takeaway from this book. The fact that this book presents that message through women of different social standings, different circumstances, and different cultures is both the diversity and unifying force of this book.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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