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The Darksome Bounds of a Failing World Reviews

The Darksome Bounds of a Failing World by Gareth Russell

The Darksome Bounds of a Failing World

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

Gareth Russell

3.18 out of 5

4 reviews

Category: History, Non-fiction
Imprint: William Collins
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 18 Mar 2019
ISBN: 9780008263164

In this original and meticulously-researched narrative history, Gareth Russell utilises the sinking of the Titanic , the ship of dreams, as a prism through which to look at the end of the Edwardian era and the seismic shift of modernity the 1910s have come to mark in the West.

  • The TimesBook of the Year
4 stars out of 5
Leanda de Lisle
30 Mar 2019

" a fascinating slice of social history"

Russell has written a biography of Henry VIII’s fifth wife, Catherine Howard, as well as a book on the fall of Europe’s three emperors in the First World War. He is good at bringing his favoured passengers to life and, through their backstories, we are informed about such various things as American antisemitism, Europe’s arms race, the divisions over Home Rule in Ireland, and much else.


2 stars out of 5
Kathryn Hughes
3 May 2019

"a morality tale about the collapse of a somewhat slipshod civilisation"

In principle there is nothing wrong with wrenching the Titanic away from its frozen moment and restoring it to the ebb and flow of ordinary time. The problem is that this isn’t what Russell really wants to do. As his portentous title suggests, he is in the business of making the Titanic story huge and metaphorical, a morality tale about the collapse of a somewhat slipshod civilisation. The result is as unconvincing as the ship’s haphazard interior, a pile-up of the gaudy and the mundane.

3 stars out of 5
Frances Wilson
22 Apr 2019

"This belief in the infallibility of bigness is the most striking feature of Russell’s darksome failing world"

Had he stuck to his original premise, Russell would have written a book about Titanic that broke new ground, but his six first-class passengers themselves keep vanishing as Russell puts aside their stories to indulge in Titanic trivia. The narrative first loses its focus, and then loses its way... After a rocky voyage, the book ends with a frustrating double verdict. The reason Titanic hit the iceberg was because she was running at an excessive speed, but the disaster was not the fault of any one person: it “was the fault of everyone and thus, potentially, of nobody”. It was not the fault, however, of those immigrants looking to start a new life in America, or the men at Harland and Wolff who prided themselves on having built a perfect ship.

3 stars out of 5
31 Mar 2019

"attention to detail is astonishing"

His attempt to present the Titanic’s fate as a fin-de-siècle event isn’t entirely convincing. What isn’t in doubt, though, is his research. The attention to detail is astonishing: if you’ve ever wondered how passengers booked a hot bath, look no further. However, the minutiae sometimes get in the way of the narrative. When Andrews drives past a school on his way to the docks, do we really need to know that the school’s rugby team had two weeks previously lost 11-3?