Belfast Telegraph

Home Life Books

The Country Formerly Known As Great Britain, By Ian Jack

Reviewed by Christopher Hirst

This book is a powerful argument for the resuscitation of an all but dead journalistic genre: the long feature. "Women and Children First", Jack's exploration of a detail of the Titanic disaster, runs to 27 pages and you would not want it a word shorter.

It concerns Wallace Hartley, the Titanic bandmaster, and whether he played "Nearer My God to Thee" as the ship went down or a pop song of the time.

Jack reaches no firm conclusion, but his investigation is revealing and moving, particularly in his discovery that only 8 per cent of male second-class passengers survived, despite having "early and easy access to the boat deck".

It is hard, he concludes, "to dismiss the thought that... they behaved differently then."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph