The Second Mrs. Astor: A Heartbreaking Historical Novel of the Titanic Book Review

History is more than a few paragraphs in a book. It is the collective stories of everyone whose lives were intercrossed with that moment in time.

The Second Mrs. Astor: A Heartbreaking Historical Novel of the Titanic, by Shana Abe, was published in 2021. Based on a true story, the novel is based on the short-lived romance and marriage of Madeleine Astor (nee Force) and her first husband, John Jacob Astor IV. At seventeen, Madeleine is at the age at which she is ready to come out to society and find a husband.

Her choice is a surprising one. He is John Jacob Astor IV, the scion of the wealthy and powerful Astor family. He is also recently divorced and nearly thirty years her senior. Despite their differences, their marriage is based on love.

After enjoying an extended honeymoon overseas, their way of getting home is via the Titanic. Newly pregnant, they are looking forward to a lifetime of happiness. Just before getting into the lifeboat, Madeleine’s husband promises that they will find one another in New York.

Several months later, she is a widow with a newborn. Madeleine has two choices. The first is to go with the image of the tragic widow that has been bestowed on her by the press. The second is to walk on a path of her own choosing.

I loved this book. Abe jumps between 2 perspectives: the omniscient narrator and Madeleine telling her son about his father. It reminded me that behind the numbers were human beings who were more than survivors and victims.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

The Second Mrs. Astor: A Heartbreaking Historical Novel of the Titanic is available wherever books are sold.

Titanic Night GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Flashback Friday: Mythbusters (2003 to Present)

Myths hold powerful sway over us, regardless of how much is fact and how much is fiction.

Mythbusters (2003 to Present) has bounced around several networks since its debut 20 years ago. Originally, it was on the schedule for the Discovery Channel before spending a year at the Science Channel. Presently, it airs on Samsung TV Plus. The purpose of the show is as the title suggests: to take a specific myth and see if it’s true or not.

I find this show to be interesting. I appreciate their methodical and scientific approach to answering the question(s) of each episode while making it fun for the audience to watch. My favorite segment is the one in which they ask if both Jack and Rose could have survived in Titanic.

Though James Cameron debunked that idea once and for all earlier this year, I appreciate the effort by the Mythbusters crew to answer the question that has existed for a quarter of a century.

Titanique the Musical Review

Nearly 30 years after James Cameron‘s Titanic was released in theaters, it remains a cultural powerhouse. This epic Romeo and Juliet-style romance meets historical disaster film is as powerful today as it was in 1997.

The new Off-Broadway musical review Titanique the Musical takes the narrative of the film and lovingly satirizes what can only be seen as a classic. Wealthy Rose DeWitt Bukater (played by Kate Winslet on screen and by Carrie St. Louis on stage) and working-class Jack Dawson (played by Leonardo DiCaprio on screen and Constantine Rousouli on stage) fall in love in spite of the barriers standing in their way. Hijacking her way into the story, Celine Dion (Marla Mindelle, who co-created the show with Rousouli), puts her own two cents in via her decades-long music catalog.

I haven’t laughed this hard at a stage show in a long time. Mindelle’s version of Dion is an SNL-type impression that could have easily devolved into a cheap caricature. Instead, she lovingly parodies Dion as only a fan can.

I loved the pop culture references, I loved the humor, and I loved the respect the creators had for original work. As an old millennial who saw Titanic in the movie theater in 1997, I appreciate this show in many ways.

I don’t say this very often, but I am tempted to see the show again.

Titanique the Musical is playing at the Darryl Roth Theatre in New York City until September 10th,2023. Check the website for tickets and showtimes.

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Thoughts On The 20th Anniversary Of Titanic

On December 19th, Titanic turns 20.

Titanic is basically the story of a fictional upper class Juliet and a lower class Romeo set on the real ship. Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a poor artist who wins a ticket on the Titanic over a game of cards. Rose Dewitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) is a socialite who is unhappily traveling with her mother and fiance back to America. Fate brings them together, but can fate and love keep them together as the ship sinks and issues of class and wealth get in the way of a happy ending?

I was a teenager when this movie hit theaters. Like many teenagers back then, I thought the movie was, well, perfect. There was romance, drama, class politics, beautiful period clothing, and on top of it all, one of the most infamous naval disasters in modern human history.  When I look back at the film through the eyes of an adult, the luster is slightly gone, but this film will always have a place in my heart.  While James Cameron is not the best screenwriter, the narrative and dialogue could be much worse. Of course, it helps that Leo and Kate’s on-screen chemistry (and off-screen BFF relationship) is indisputable.

Titanic is one of those movies that 20 years later, I still know by heart. There are some movies that will always mark certain times in our lives. Titanic will always be a reminder of my teenage years.

I think I may watch it again, not just for old time’s sake, but because it’s still a pretty good movie.

Movies With Birthdays-Forbidden Romance Edition- Titanic (1997) & Dirty Dancing (1987)

There nothing as exciting as a forbidden romance, especially on the big screen. For a film where the basic narrative is a forbidden romance to not only initially succeed at the box office, but to last long after it has left theaters, well, it has to be pretty special.

While some films within this narrowly defined narrative have failed and have been forgotten, both Titanic (1997) and Dirty Dancing (1987) have gone on to not only become classics, but also generational markers. In honor of the 20th anniversary of Titanic and the 30th anniversary of Dirty Dancing, I’d thought it was time to celebrate these remarkable films that have stood the test of time.


Loosely based on the sinking of the actual Titanic, the film combines real events with real people who were on the ship with the fictional romance of upper class girl Rose Dewitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) and lower class boy Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio). Told in past tense by Rose in her twilight years (Gloria Stuart), Rose is traveling on the Titanic back to America with her mother, Ruth Dewitt Bukater (Frances Fisher) and her unwanted fiance, Cal Hockley (Billy Zane).

Rose and Jack have a near immediate connection, but the difference in their class nearly keeps them apart. Then Titanic hits the iceberg and everything changes.

I think many writers (including myself) will agree that James Cameron is not the best at writing dialogue and the plot is predictable, but that is the fun of this movie. It is also to progenitor of the fictional story within a real historical event genre. And who could forget the film’s theme song, which no one could get away from in the late 1990’s.

Dirty Dancing

Set in the early 1960’s, Frances “Baby” Houseman (Jennifer Grey) is a young woman going up to the Catskills with her family for summer vacation. Lacking in confidence, Baby is young, idealistic and naive. She falls for Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze), the hotel’s lead male dance instructor who is technically off limits to her. When Penny Johnson (Cynthia Rhodes) is no longer able to join Johnny on the dance floor, Baby steps up the plate. But she is not a dancer and is aware that both she and Johnny are breaking the rules by not only dancing together, but falling in love.

What can one say about Dirty Dancing? The music is danceable (and singeable), Baby is an every woman and Patrick Swayze was not too bad on the eyes either. It’s basically a coming of age story combined with a forbidden romance, which elevates the movie to a higher plane of character and story development.

And course, Dirty Dancing has it’s own iconic theme song.

The fact that both of these films have lasted as long as they have is a testament to the power of love, the dangerous excitement of forbidden romance and the fact that both films are incredible.

P.S. The inspiration for this post came from the reboot of Dirty Dancing, which will be airing on ABC on Wednesday. Look for my review later in the week.

RIP Bill Paxton

I feel that life is divided into the horrible and the miserable. That’s the two categories. The horrible are like, I don’t know, terminal cases, you know, and blind people, crippled. I don’t know how they get through life. It’s amazing to me. And the miserable is everyone else. So you should be thankful that you’re miserable, because that’s very lucky, to be miserable.- Alvy Singer, Annie Hall

We never know when life is going to end. We go about our business and then were gone.

Bill Paxton died yesterday.

A diverse actor of immense talent, he is best remembered for his roles in Titanic (1997) and Twister (1996).

He died from surgical complications. My heart and prayers go out his family and loved ones.


Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

March 25th, 1911 started as an ordinary day. The employees of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory clocked in, expecting an ordinary day. But 3/25/11 was destined to become a day that is forever marred by grief and loss.

A fire broke out and spread quickly. 146 workers, mostly young immigrant  girls died from the fire.

Like the tragedy of the Titanic a year later, the deaths of innocent people forced the hands of the powers that be to make positive change.

In a few weeks is the 115th anniversary of the fire.

May the memories of those who were lost be a blessing to those who knew them best. May we, the living, learn from the mistakes of our predecessors and not let greed prevent us from doing what is right.

Flashback Friday-Titanic

Titanic, the ship sank on April 15th, 1912. Titanic, the movie sailed into movie theaters on December 19th, 1997.

Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a poor artist who wins his tickets to the Titanic in a card game. Rose Dewitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) is returning to America via the Titanic to marry, though not by choice. Their romance is as ill fated as the ship they are sailing on.

Was I one of those teenage girls who saw this movie more than once in the theater? Yes. Was I one of those teenage girls who listened to the soundtrack till I was blue in the face or the CD became so scratched that I had to replace it? Yes. Was I also one of those teenage girls who thought Leonardo DiCaprio was the hottest thing on screen? Yes, though now I know better.

Let’s put this movie into perspective. Rose and Jack’s doomed relationship has a Romeo and Juliet, Heathcliff and Cathy feel to it. Complete with fate and those around them determined to see the lovers going their separate ways.  Is James Cameron a good director? Yes. Is he a good screenwriter? That depends on your opinion. The dialogue in this movie, even with the A list actors reciting the lines, is a little wooden.

But it’s the kind of movie that on a lazy, rainy weekend afternoon, that you watch just because it’s on. And for my generation, it’s all about nostalgia and a movie (complete with it’s iconic theme song) that played on and on and on….

And just because this movie takes itself a little too seriously, I give you SNL’s take on Titanic.

Do I recommend this movie? Sure, why not it’s only an iconic part of my teenage years.



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