The English Book Club
The English Book Club

An exploration of desire, loss, and queerness: “The Titanic Survivors Book Club”

We discussed Timothy Schaffert’s The Titanic Survivors Book Club on June 13, 2024. This 2024 novel follows the curator of the RMS Titanic’s second-class library, who was left stranded at the docks when the catastrophic maiden voyage began. He soon receives an invitation to a secret society of Titanic survivors. Haunted by their good fortune, they decide to form a book society—letting book discussions help with their anxieties and guilt.

PADERBORN2READ Rating for The Titanic Survivors Book Club by Timothy Schaffert

5 out of 5

Members’ Opinions

“A captivating narrative dealing with characters that are, for various reasons, standing outside common morality, challenging conventional understandings of love.”

“Timothy Schaffert’s captivating novel The Titanic Survivors Book Club interweaves a pre-WWI Paris with explorations of desire, loss, and queerness. The tragedy of the Titanic might be what connects the characters at first, but their joint book club merely functions as a backdrop: the banned literature they discuss mirrors how the characters defy societal norms.

Yorrick loves Haze, Haze loves Zinnia, and Zinnia loves Yorrick. The Titanic Suvivors Book Club is a story about loving too much and trying to love enough. True love is what connects the characters, but the novel simultaneously deconstructs the notion of ‘the one true love’. Haze cannot love Yorrick enough, Zinnia cannot love Haze enough, and Yorrick cannot love Zinnia enough. Schaffert braids the characters’ desires, lies, and desperations into the vivid atmosphere of an almost magical Paris of the 1910s. When the first world war sets in, the boundaries of beauty and destruction blur.

In the beginning, the novel proposes: ‘You yourself are a Titanic survivor, you might say, because you didn’t board either. … You live another day. Your daily paper is full of reports of your own survival.’ Ultimately, The Titanic Survivors Book Club is neither a book about the Titanic, nor about a book club. It isn’t a story that hinges on tragedy, although tragedy is what follows the characters in every moment of their lives. Instead, the novel beautifully catalogues survival in a world in which the characters were never supposed to exist in the first place.”

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Summer Term 2024

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