Review of The Last Voyage of the Andrea Doria

The Last Voyage of the Andrea Doria: The Sinking of the World’s Most Glamorous Ship by Greg King and Penny Wilson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Last Voyage of the Andrea Doria: The Sinking of the World’s Most Glamorous Ship delivers and engaging, atmospheric, and intimate look at the people who experienced the tragedy along with considerations of the outcomes and continuing reverberations of the event.

I will admit to being very pleasantly surprised to discover that this writing team were also behind Twighlight of Empire (very highly recommended as well) which I thoroughly enjoyed a decade or two ago. Much like that volume, the authors introduce us to the characters as they board the ship at various embarkation points. We get to know their backstories. We appreciate the elegant ship through their various eyes and experiences and tour the Andrea Doria as it embarks on its 101st voyage in 1956. The shock and suddenness of the collision with the Stockholm is captured in detail from various perspectives and the ensuing chaos are all too well related. Subsequently, the rescue, the inquest and the lives of the of surviving passengers and crew along with subsequent recovery efforts and dives to the wreck over the next 50 years.

The general structure is logical and as one would expect – a brief history of Atlantic cruise liners, the context of the particular ship, embarkation, collision, resue and inquest. What marks this book apart if the measured delivery of the vast amount of material that was collected for this volume. The authors have clearly done extensive research as part of their homework. Sources are extensive and this has been well-travelled territory since the 1950’s. Managing the parallel experience of an extensive number of passengers and crew, the authors have done a superb job of finding just the right volume of information tying it together in a colourful tapestry of experience. There is no sense of repetition of systematisation which could all too easily happen. Nothing is rote. Instead, the tales are captivating and balanced and the entire volume feels satisfying, informative and never fails to engage. I say this as I was conscious of the vast cast, but remained quite riveted to their stories. The Andrea Doria remains the backdrop for a well temporally contextualised series of human experiences.

The logical structure as well helps the reader relate to the overall story arc. Additional information, such as subsequent treatment of the event in various media along with straightforwardly addressing the changing perceptions around blame for the tragedy, are handled skillfully.

King and Wilson deliver another superb read and I highly recommend this The Last Voyage of the Andrea Doria.

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