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Thirteen-year-old Sumner Jordan, son of a leading Boston suffragist, took his eyes from the prize as a contestant in a prestigious poetry contest in order to champion the cause of women's emancipation. He lost, but was rewarded by Mother with a trip to London to visit his expatriate father—and a voyage home on the Titanic. During a wild literary evening his father sponsors, attended by Pound and Joyce among others, Sumner takes a keen interest in Dad's actress lover, especially after she flirts with him. He discovers his sexuality that night, but soon after finds another focus for his passion: the American suffragist Ivy Earnshaw, whom he views in thrillingly defiant action at a pro- suffrage rally. Sumner's excitement at travelling alone on the Titanic is boundless when he sees that Ivy is also aboard. With the help of the sympathetic (and breathtakingly dashing) Pierce Andrews, he succeeds in overcoming his shyness enough to ask Ivy to dance, but the momentous evening has barely ended when the iceberg happens along to spoil the fun. Unable to avoid being labeled a child as women and children are loaded into lifeboats, not even the fact that Ivy and Pierce are saved with him can keep Sumner's heroic image of himself from being dashed. He returns to Boston depressed at having survived, but eventually rethinks the matter when Ivy confesses to feeling the same way.
The tragic appeal of the Titanic remains undiminished, even with the recent passing of the last survivor with memories of the sinking, but using it—no matter how vividly—as mere backdrop for a tale of a sappy, genteel adolescent crush seems ill-advised.