No matter the topic, the book is pretty much guaranteed to be fabulous if the author is Erik Larson. The past comes to life through Larson’s incredible talent. This book not only shares what happened, but through his storytelling, you’re connected with so many people on board as well as the aftermath and effect of the sinking. Both intriguing and fascinating, this book is one for fellow history buffs.
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.
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.
While no quick read, Dead Wake keeps you interested throughout the book. To begin with, it’s such a tragic tale. Nearly 1,200 innocent people died in this attack (interesting fact, the man responsible, Schwieger, would also die at sea later in an attack against a British ship). She was an incredible ship too. It makes the end all the more heart breaking. War is a terrible thing.
I like that every detail Larson includes has a purpose. He doesn’t add information for the sake of adding information. There were times when I wondered why he talked about certain things, but I soon found out why and it made the story all the richer. The story of the sinking of the Lusitania would have been interesting enough, but Larson made it all the more intriguing by discussing what people knew and didn’t. Was it a set up to get America in the war? Could the British have done more? Of course these are questions we may never know the answers to, but I like when a story sparks interests to research.
I found one of Woodrow Wilson’s quotes tragic, knowing what was to come after this war. I wonder if Wilson could have ever imagined what awaited in the decades to come?
“In God’s name, how could any nation calling itself civilized purpose so horrible a thing.”
What non-fiction are you reading?
(Thank you to Blogging for Books for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review)