‘Women and Children First’ is set on the Titanic and follows the lives of four very different passengers who survive the disaster. Reg, a young first class dining steward, Annie an Irish woman traveling in third class with her children, Lady Juliette Mson-Parker who is pregnant and not married and George Grayling who is travelling with his long suffering wife. We learn about these characters before and follow their lives immediately after the sinking on the 14th April 1912.
I have read a lot of books about the Titanic this year due to the centenary taking place in April. However, ‘Women and Children First’ really stands out for me. Although a fictional account, Paul has filled the novel with historical facts leaving a riveting tale to be read. The novel gives the reader facts about what life was really like on board the doomed ship, including what people ate and what they did to keep themselves busy. This, intertwined with the fictional tale of the characters creates a heart wrenching, un-putdownable book.
The chapters alternate between each of the characters allowing the reader to feel that they know each of them. There are a lot of twists and turns in the plot of each person, but I found this easy to read and did not feel overwhelmed with information. We see in great detail, the effects that being on the Titanic had on each person and how it changes their lives.
This is a mesmerizing, fascinating and thought provoking read, ‘Women and Children First’ is an outstanding debut and I am looking forward to reading more from Gill Paul. Highly recommended.