A Review of "Surviving the Hindenburg" in Booklist
Booklist (Mar 2012)
The 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster is a good chance to rope in discussion of the 1937 explosion of the Hindenburg, which, as Verstraete’s foreword details, was nearly as long as the Titanic and intended to be “the world’s first flying hotel.” Told from the point of view of the youngest crew member, 14-yearold cabin-boy Werner Franz, this is an effectively claustrophobic insider story. Werner is depicted walking through the fascinatingly narrow inner passageways of the zeppelin and gazing out at Manhattan’s “ocean of buildings far and wide.” From Werner’s viewpoint, the explosion is utter confusion—in less than a minute, he is plunged into a fiery nightmare illustrated by Geister as a hellish world of churning smoke and buckling metal. Throughout, the prose is level-headed and calm, which might allay reader fears, even as it feels a bit incongruous. The limited perspective keeps the grandeur of the crash at bay until the final paintings, where Werner cowers before the crumbling ship. There is no bibliography, but the closing author’s note is fantastic.