Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson
Age range: adult | Paperback: 480 pages | Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (March 22, 2016)
About Dead Wake
#1 New York Times Bestseller
From the bestselling author and master of narrative nonfiction comes the enthralling story of the sinking of the Lusitania
On May 1, 1915, with WWI entering its tenth month, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were surprisingly at ease, even though Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone. For months, German U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the era’s great transatlantic “Greyhounds”—the fastest liner then in service—and her captain, William Thomas Turner, placed tremendous faith in the gentlemanly strictures of warfare that for a century had kept civilian ships safe from attack.
Germany, however, was determined to change the rules of the game, and Walther Schwieger, the captain of Unterseeboot-20, was happy to oblige. Meanwhile, an ultra-secret British intelligence unit tracked Schwieger’s U-boat, but told no one. As U-20 and the Lusitania made their way toward Liverpool, an array of forces both grand and achingly small—hubris, a chance fog, a closely guarded secret, and more—all converged to produce one of the great disasters of history.
It is a story that many of us think we know but don’t, and Erik Larson tells it thrillingly, switching between hunter and hunted while painting a larger portrait of America at the height of the Progressive Era. Full of glamour and suspense, Dead Wake brings to life a cast of evocative characters, from famed Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat to pioneering female architect Theodate Pope to President Woodrow Wilson, a man lost to grief, dreading the widening war but also captivated by the prospect of new love.
Gripping and important, Dead Wake captures the sheer drama and emotional power of a disaster whose intimate details and true meaning have long been obscured by history.
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My Thoughts on Dead Wake
The Lusitania was a large ship carrying almost 2000 passengers and crew when it was torpedoed and sunk only hours before reaching its Liverpool destination. Far less than half survived. As one of the worst maritime disasters in history, it’s also a fascinating story. It makes you wonder about fate and how each factor lined up in order for the disaster to happen.
The book covered a lot more than I expected it to. I learned tidbits of information about submarines, President Wilson, and ocean liners. I loved the way Larson included personal accounts from survivors and witnesses. It made the book become real, instead of just an event that happened a long time ago. About half way through I found myself dreading the ending and wishing I could somehow change history. Unfortunately, I couldn’t. The ship sank.
I found myself riveted to this account of warfare, survival, and fate. I watched as factors and conditions set themselves up to put the boat in the wrong place at the wrong time. Then, I could feel the passengers’ shock as they watched the torpedo speed toward them. The horror of the ship going down. The devastation as life boats turned into death boats.
Through it all, I’m amazed at the human will to survive, to soldier on. If nothing else, this is a great book to read if you want to learn more about World War I and the unfortunate disaster that befell the Lusitania.
Content: The ship sinks. People die. It’s not gory or descriptive.
Source: I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.
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