It’s odd, perhaps, to say you love a shipwreck story, especially knowing it is both true and tragic. But I did love this book, and as I was reading The Sinking of RMS Tayleur: The Lost Story of the ‘Victorian Titanic’ I was very much struck by the obvious care that went into its research and writing, and I couldn’t help thinking that perhaps Gill Hoffs was somehow destined to write it.
As the title indicates, the book details the sinking of the ship called RMS Tayleur. The date of departure was January 19, 1854. The location of departure was Liverpool. Destination: Australia.
Obviously, the RMS Tayleur did not make it to Australia. Hoffs notes up front in the book’s Preface that many women and children lost their lives, one of the many reasons that compelled her to write this book.
It is a fascinating, heartbreaking, revealing work, and I found it compelling for a number of reasons. This brand new ship and its captain were billed as the best of their time, and while there were an extraordinary number of shipwrecks in neighboring waters in this era, the RMS Tayleur, of all ships, was really considered to be as close to guaranteed safe passage as was possible. Many aboard were in desperate need of new life prospects, and were risking the lives of their families as well. And of course the passengers could not know it at the time, but 58 years later another ship would go down on its own first voyage, from the same White Star Line group. You may have heard of it? It was called the Titanic.
With this book Gill Hoffs has perhaps uncovered the reason the RMS Tayleur tragedy occurred, a reason that seems to have escaped real consideration until now. For the descendants of the survivors, and for those who died, this obviously holds critical significance.
Hoffs is a wonderful writer and human, and I hope you’ll check out her website, linked here. Her next book, The Lost Story of the William & Mary: The Cowardice of Captain Stinson, was actually just published, and I can’t wait to read it.