Julie Cook's 'Titanic Girls' features in Sixtyplussurfers
Thank you to Sixtyplussurfers, the online magazine for over sixties, for allowing us to share their review of Julie Cook's 'Titanic Girls'. To view their site please visit www.sixtyplusurfers.co.uk.
Review by Janet Gordon
While researching my family tree I discovered that my grandparents had escaped from the Russian pogroms in 1900 (nothing changes, does it?) and lived in absolute squalor and poverty in London’s East End.
To be honest, while I suppose in some deep recess of my mind, I realised there was squalor and abject poverty all over England, it never occurred to me that Southampton was one of those places. But, on reading The Titanic Girls and realising just what starvation and misery the inhabitants of the slums endured, I was horrified.
Author, Julie Cook’s grandfather was a stoker on the ocean going liners which sailed from Southampton. He would come back to his home after a shift, completely black from head and toe having earned a pittance with which to keep his family – and that’s of course not taking into account the money he spent in beer while his wife struggled to afford a loaf of stale bread.
So when the White Star Line announced that the Titanic was now taking on staff ready for its maiden sailing, the stokers of the slum streets began dreaming.
There was Percy, whose father owned a cobblers shop where just before every liner sailed, queues of men would pawn their boots – they had no need of them on board the ship – so the women would be able to feed the family until the men came home.
Then there was Lucy, whose childhood sweetheart Tom dreamt of owning a charabanc. Unmarried Susan was a school teacher, and a would be suffragette, convinced she would never want to marry after watching the way in which her father struggled to find work.
Personable Percy was taken on as a first class Steward while Tom was a stoker. Susan’s father was too drunk to join the work queue, but her two brothers were taken on, also as stokers.
Of course the story of the Titanic needs no introduction. So the author’s story is a tale of three women whose friendship was formed in the slums and who needed each other for support in those dark dark days after the disaster. And also how the country rallied to help, and the way in which the survivors were treated.
Author, Julie Cook
Author Julie Cook’s grandfather was just such a stoker on the Titanic who drowned in the disaster, and it is this which has inspired this thought provoking saga.
And while reading it, I remembered that many years ago, I’d had tea with the Titanic survivor, Eva Hart who was just seven when the Liner capsized. My ex-husband was also fascinated by the disaster and in fact actually bought an original 1912 copy of The Times which announced the disaster. No idea what happened to that.
The novel’s blurb is very correct in that after the disaster, everyone focused on those rich and famous people who didn’t survive. Nobody but nobody gave a thought to the starving widows of those men who slaved away in the darkness of the furnaces to keep the Titanic going. And this novel is a homage to them
Apart from now being a published author, Julie is also a feature writer for national newspapers and magazines.
The Titanic Girls by Julie Cook is published by Blkdog. Price is £12.99.
For more information about the book visit www.blkdogpublishing.com