Every Man for Himself by Beryl Bainbridge

About the book

On Wednesday, April 10, 1912, the RMS Titanic left Southampton on her maiden voyage to New York. Four days later, half an hour before midnight, she struck an iceberg. By 2 a.m. the last lifeboat had rowed frantically away. Minutes later the great ship sank. Fifteen hundred people had lost their lives. Every Man for Himself recaptures those four crucial days at the end of the Belle Epoque. J. Pierpont Morgan’s nephew, en route to New York, has booked passage on the world’s most luxurious ocean liner. His companions include a host of Guggenheims, Vanderbilts, and upper crust fellow travelers. It is a voyage of black-tie dining and moonlight serenades, of illicit romances and reserved travelers with shadowy pasts. The young Morgan soon finds his destiny linked to those of his shipmates, memorable personalities all, as the great ship sails toward her fate. But the Titanic’s destiny may not be unknown to everyone on board: just hours before tragedy strikes, one of the passengers is heard to remark, “Have you not yet learned that it’s every man for himself?” Bainbridge vividly recreates each scene of the voyage, from the suspicious fire in the Number 10 coal boiler, to the champagne and crystal of the first-class public rooms, to that terrible midnight chaos in the frigid North Atlantic. This remarkable, haunting tale confirms Bainbridge as a consummate observer of human behavior and the human condition.

Reviewed by Petersfield U3A Book Circles:

When we first saw the book we thought “not another Titanic book”. But of the 9 of us 5 enjoyed it appreciating the insight given of the social scene on board in 1912, and the description of the final hours we thought was very moving. The other 4 found it boring having no sympathy with the characters . . .

Star rating **

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10 thoughts on “Every Man for Himself by Beryl Bainbridge”

  1. Review by Yateley & District U3A Reading Group:
    Only two people in our group enjoyed this book. Most of our readers felt the characters had no depth and felt the story was a bit weak. The climax at the end did not do the disaster justice.
    Star rating: *


  2. Review by Southampton U3A reading group:
    We thought the book was very well written, and was exciting but was not over-hyped or over the top. It was faithful to the facts as we know them.
    Star rating: ****


  3. Review by New Forest/Waterside U3A – Theatre and Literature Reading Group: :
    Once we had nailed this book down as a rite-of-passage for Morgan and the Titanic was simply a vessel for transporting his personal journey into manhood; it was possible to consider its qualities. Certainly it depicted the end of an era, but Waterside’s own poet William Scammell painted a similar picture half a century later and the profligacy of today’s over-rich suggests that little has changed. Many of the group found the style of writing (following Harper Lee and Jane Austen) unsatisfactory although after discussion accepted its clarity and fitness for the story. Star rating: ** to **** and points to the intensity of discussion.


  4. Review by North Baddesley WI Reading Group:
    An easy read for most of the group. Two ladies could not get on with it. Faction not to everybody’s taste, but the story gave an insight into behaviour of the early twenties.
    Star rating: ***


  5. Review by Petersfield U3A Group 1 Reading Group:
    Very mixed reactions to this book. On the positive side some thought it well written and had good characterisation. However, the remainder of the group felt it didn’t hold their interest and anyway we knew the ending!!
    Star rating: **


  6. Review by Boaters Book Club:
    The parallels to the film Titanic were discussed extensively. The characterisations were considered good and an interesting reflection on society and that the book was well written
    Star rating: ***


  7. Review by Museum Book Group:
    We all enjoyed reading this book but found it did not provoke discussion. It was felt it was an event of which we had knowledge and it was difficult to give the characters substance.
    Star rating: **


  8. Review by The Ladies Who Lunch Reading Group:
    Despite our group feeling that we did not engage with the characters, we all enjoyed the book. We felt it needed to be read a second time to unravel some of the hidden story line.
    Star rating: ***


  9. Review by Entre Nous Reading Group:
    A well written novel, very convincing description of the aristocracy. This book gave a very differnet account of the Titanic, compared to the film!
    Star rating: ***


  10. Review Jane and Nick’s Reading Group:
    Some opinions: ‘Felt as if the book had been lifted , leaving behind the beginning and ending’. ‘Not enough atmosphere, no sense of real action/drama considering the subject’. The beinning rather confusing jumping between characters.
    Star rating: **


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