Review: The band that played on – Steve Turner

The Band that Played On:
The Extraordinary Story of the 8 Musicians Who Went Down with the Titanic

By Steve Turner
Hardcover, Thomas Nelson 2011


Anyone who has seen films or read books about the Titanic will recall the ship’s band which played as it sank. In this book Steve Turner focuses on these eight musicians. He explores the various claims regarding what they played, and in particular, what their last tune was and looks at the various stories that circulated regarding the band following the tragedy.

Turner makes it clear from the outset that this book doesn’t seek to explore issues of why and how the ship sank, but rather, takes a much closer look at the lives of the musicians: what brought them to this ship; what their roles were; who they left behind, and various other interesting questions. The result is a very personal slice of history which tells a lot about the culture of the day. There are obvious points of intersection with the larger issues of the Titanic sinking, but essentially the book sticks to the stories of these eight men.

Turner has done a lot of research and does a good job of making it readable and approachable to a popular audience. Where the trail of documentation ends he sometimes gives speculation, and where there is contention he gives his opinion, and for what reason. At the end of the book he touches on the alleged ‘Wallace Hartley Violin’, but points out that due to its impending auction and resultant sworn-secrecy of all those involved, he was unable to  garner any real information or corroboration. It is a slight anti-climax, though perhaps looks forward to a second volume in due course.

I found the initial biographical backgrounds to be a little dry, but worth persevering through, as the information paved the way for exploring the men’s actions and characters, and the aftermath  event, which is much more engaging.

It is quite a fast read, and one which I enjoyed. I don’t think one need be a musician to appreciate this book. Anyone with an interest in the Titanic, sea-faring history or Georgian society in general ought to find it quite stimulating. A good holiday read (cruises excluded!).

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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