Book Review: A Night to Remember

NIGHT TO REMEMBER 1A Night to Remember, by Walter Lord, was published in the 1950s but reissued by Holt Paperbacks in 1994.

This book is not on my compiled list of best books of the world (which lists more than 1200 titles). However, it is a sort of classic, and my daughter picked it out of a lineup for her third grade nonfiction book report. She’s not too happy that she did: I read it out loud to her and she synopsized in her report, “I would give this book one star out of five because I didn’t enjoy it. It was boring. It was very detailed and was hard to pay attention to. It said on the website that it was for teenagers and grown-ups, but I thought I would like it anyways. I was wrong, but I did learn a lot about the Titanic.”

I, on the other hand, did enjoy it. It is chock-full of details and ship vernacular; just name after name and timelines and maps and temperatures and all that. Still, the book is such a fascinating study of people in crisis and also of an era gone by, and does the whole thing with kid gloves, compassion, and panache. I was riveted to all those details, and was moved to tears almost every night we read it. (Try explaining to your kids that a simple sentence of factual information can recreate a heart-wrenching scene in your mind of a father sending his family away knowing he will never join them and that this scene makes you imagine your own husband on the deck waving goodbye to you and them; they just look at you like you are nuts.)

I’m not sure I have much more to say about this book because it is all there in that last paragraph. Lots of deets, but heart-breaking stories and fascinating information and a time of glamor and pride and self-righteousness that was never quite to be again. Plus, there’s a character named Major Butt and plenty about the poop deck. My kids did enjoy that.

Haven’t enjoyed a nonfiction book this much since Columbine by Dave Cullen.


There is also a rather lauded old movie based on this book, and no I don’t mean Titanic. Titanic is too riske for my kids to watch and I’m pretty sure one hundred per cent of you have watched that one already, but I have put A Night to Remember on hold with Netflix, and I will review it once we watch it.



5 thoughts on “Book Review: A Night to Remember

  1. Does it give any details of the menus that were on the ship?! My sixth grader is researching online about this right now. Looks like this is the book he needs!

  2. This is the book that launched my obsession with books about shipwrecks and why I don’t like the idea of traveling in ships! There is much sadness in the recounting, a good look at the mores of the time, and with my crime stories penchant, I was very interested in the description of the inquest at the end too.

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