Book Review: Hearts That Survive: A Novel of the Titanic by Yvonne Lehman

Book:  Hearts That Survive: A Novel of the Titanic
Author:  Yvonne Lehman
Pages:   432
Format:  Paperback, Kindle
Publisher:  Abingdon Press (March 2012)
Book Source:  Publisher
Category:  Historical Fiction
Style:  Conversational prose, engaging, original plot

Synopsis from GoodReads:

On April 15, 1912, Lydia Beaumont is on her way to a new life with a boundless hope in love and faith. Her new friendship with Caroline Chadwick is bonded even more as they plan Lydia 's wedding on board the grandest ship ever built. Then both women suffer tragic losses when the unsinkable Titanic goes down. Can each survive the scars the disaster left on their lives? . . . more

My Take: 

Although the beginning starts off like a typical Titanic novel, the story morphs into a compelling tale of regrets, hiding life-changing secrets, and love.

The story begins with Lydia Beaumont, wealthy heiress to a railroad company. She is accompanied on this trip by Craven Dowd, president of her father's company, and John Ancell, poet and maker of toy trains. The first, her unsaid intended; the second, her secret love. Craven is calm, cool, collected, and pretty much Lydia's 'keeper'.

Due to an unplanned moment of passion, Lydia finds herself pregnant. She tells John, who truly loves her and proposes marriage. They decide to get married on the Titanic—truly a wedding fit for a princess. Not knowing of the child, Craven reluctantly agrees to support the marriage, knowing that Lydia's father would never agree.

Interspersed with Lydia and John's tale is Caroline's story. She and Lydia become fast friends when they plan the wedding. Caroline is in a pretty much loveless marriage, haunted by the children she will never have. After four miscarriages, her husband tells her she won't go through that again. Her maid/friend Bess plays a big part in the story too.

Whipping the wedding details together in two days, Lydia and John are married by the captain amidst the first class. While celebrating, the ship hits the infamous iceberg. With no time for 'consummating' the marriage, Lydia leaves on a lifeboat, both she and John knowing they will not see each other again.

Author Yvonne Lehman
The Titanic sinks, and the passengers who were blessed to get off the ship and into lifeboats wait to be rescued by other ships. I appreciated how the author described the unsavory aftermath of the sinking of Titanic, such as ships having to go out and collect the frozen bodies from the sea, identifying bodies, and funeral services. With the film Titanic, you don’t get that part of it.

Lydia, Caroline, and Bess (Caroline’s maid/friend) go through different stages of grief. For Lydia, she feels the most raw, because she and John truly loved each other. She doesn’t want to live at first, but then realizes she must go on for their baby.

Lydia marries Craven. The story moves on as Lydia and Craven go through her pregnancy. There was a lot of emphasis on the doctor knowing she was really a month ahead than she let on, but I don’t know if they would have been that adamant back then about cycles and when exactly she would have started. Lydia is terrified that Craven will find out it's not his child, and she fully expects their marriage to be over after she has the baby. Well, no such luck. A strangely tender Craven reacts well to the baby, having no reason to assume it wouldn’t be his. So Lydia and Craven go through life together, with this huge secret between them.

Caroline meets a good man, falls in love, and they marry. As the book goes on, you get a lot of Caroline’s life, then a tidbit of Lydia’s, and vice versa. It was a little hard to follow sometimes, but overall, there was a good amount of each story. It ends up being many people’s stories, not just Lydia’s.

As the decades roll on (sometimes with only a paragraph or two describing the years going by), the different couples face different challenges and have joy as well. Their descendants come into play, and the tale moves from the main couples and into their children and grandchildren’s lives. It kinda jumped around a little bit, but the story was good and there was a satisfying conclusion.

Bottom Line: This is a good, engaging book with original characters and an interesting plot. I gained more insight into the sinking of the Titanic and the resulting struggles. The characters are relatable and enjoyable.

— DesireĆ©

FTC disclaimer:  A paperback copy of this book was provided by the author or their agent with the understanding we would publish a fair and honest review.  We receive no other compensation for this content.


Shallee said...

Thanks for this review! I've never heard of this, but it sounds like a neat take on the Titanic story.

Robin said...

I've been following ms. Parker's blog and I am so excited to get my hands on this book! Congratulations to her!