Duck Duck Book

67 – first class
12.31.2010, 8:43 pm
Filed under: history & geography

First class : legendary ocean liner voyages around the world / Gérard Piouffre.
New York : Vendome Press, c2009.
[MCL call number: 910.45 P662f 2009 ; three copies, no holds]

I have travelled by ship, a teeny tiny bit — not entirely surprising, really, since I have lived within 100 miles of the ocean for my entire life — but I’ve never been on a proper cruise.  The times when I have slept on a ship, it hasn’t been the most pleasant experience.  The engines were loud, the ship was crowded, the seas were a little rough, the ship’s appointments were less than desirable, or the trip was so long through a dark night that I was just plain bored.

But still, I thrill a bit to the romance of ocean travel.  Shuffleboard and deck chairs, lavish dinners on heavy china, a library with shelves that have little rails on them to keep the books in; it doesn’t sound so bad.  I don’t mean I want to take a trip aboard a modern megaship, or one of those special cruises where you get to hang out with Garrison Keillor; no, the cruise of my dreams is one that takes place in a bygone era when cruise fashions only came in natural fibers and when nothing on the ship was made of plastic; a time when you had to travel by ship, because airplanes were unavailable or reserved for daredevils with bottomless pockets.  I am sure that if I were actually transported to the past to take an early twentieth century cruise I would waste no time in finding all kinds of fault with the operation, but since that’s impossible, I’m happy to daydream a bit with a nice picture book.

And First Class is a nice picture book.  Individual chapters describe and feature photographs of voyages in different parts of the world, with a focus on the period between about 1890 and 1940.  The essays that accompany the photographs are just meaty enough to give a sense of the history of the journeys well-off folks once took on ocean liners — and the pictures are beautiful.

* * *

If your’e truly charmed by this book, you might want to check out its companion:

First class : legendary train journeys around the world / Patrick Poivre d’Arvor.
New York : Vendome Press, c2007.
[MCL call number: 910.4 P757f 2007; two copies, one hold]

I haven’t examined it, but my guess is that it also provides a pleasant and interesting diversion.


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