It is 1890 in Tyneside, where shipbuilding is in full swing. The mighty liners are in competition to make the transatlantic crossing in luxury, and ever faster and safer. Shipbuilders and owners are important men whose status is displayed in lives of ostentatious luxury, and their frequently wayward sons and daughters. Young Gil Collingwood is different; he would be an impossible suitor for any wealthy young lady. Worse than lacking in social graces, he is incapable of making a friend of any other human being. He would be written off as moronic, but he is a genius who can create an ocean liner down to the last rivet simply by thinking of it. Gil’s designs are unequalled, and his ships are beautiful, but his personal life is a disaster. His powerful libido leads to a dual tragedy that makes him an outcast, and he descends into degradation. His salvation is brought about by his determined loyal friend Abby and by learning that he has a son, a resilient young fellow who even relishes the boarding school which was torment for Gil.
This novel would surely make a successful television series with its grand, sweeping drama and a host of characters. The author is ruthless, and the death toll is high. In a book that offers so much, it seems greedy to wish there was more about the ships, especially the maiden voyage of Gil’s masterpiece, Northumbria.