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HEROINE OF THE TITANIC: The Real Unsinkable Molly Brown

Elaine Landau, Author, Elaine Landau, Illustrator . Clarion $18 (144p) ISBN 978-0-395-93912-3

The vivacity of the socialite and activist who survived the infamous shipwreck seems curiously absent from this otherwise well-researched biography. Landau (John F. Kennedy Jr.) cautions, "Much of what you think you know about [Margaret Brown] may be untrue"; for instance, she was "never called Molly during her lifetime." But the author often corrects misinformation from newspaper stories and the 1960s film (The Unsinkable Molly Brown) with the assumption that readers know something of her subject. One of the strongest sections is Landau's description of how Margaret threatened to throw the simpering quartermaster of her lifeboat overboard and how the society women passengers rowed to save victims from drowning—a passage that proves more inspiring than the characterization in the 1997 movie. Margaret earned her fame by her dedication to raising funds and finding housing for lower-class and immigrant women (many of whom were widowed in the shipwreck). The bulk of the volume focuses on Margaret's humble beginnings and marriage to an engineer whose success thrust her into the upper echelons of society. Several anecdotes capture a saucy, witty Margaret; for example when a friend of Margaret's points out another woman at a luncheon, saying it "wasn't proper to wear diamonds in the daytime," Margaret replies in the woman's defense, "I didn't think so either until I had some." Brown's pithy quotes unfortunately underscore the contrast between her own words and the volume's rather belabored narrative style. Ages 10-14. (May)

Reviewed on: 05/07/2001
Release date: 04/01/2001
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