04 March 2015

Book Review: Dead Wake by Erik Larson

I've got something a little different today - not a card or paper crafting project but a book review. I used to do book reviews and book club discussion quite frequently, but kept them on a separate page here on my site. As part of streamlining the things I do and living up to the title of my site, I will be sharing more of the things I do in my "quiet moments" here!

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the LusitaniaDead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

Erik Larson never disappoints - his book are meticulously researched, riveting accounts that humanize pivotal events in history. 'Dead Wake' did not disappoint. I was glued to this book from start to finish, all the more because I knew what was coming and hindsight is a miraculous thing. Knowing the fate of the Lusitania made reading the accounts of passengers bittersweet, it made the apparent lack of protection maddening, and it made for an engrossing read. I've always been fascinated by maritime stories, and although I knew the Lusitania was a casualty of war that was really all I knew. What made this book even more interesting for me were the personal details about President Woodrow Wilson - I live in his hometown, and my daughter's class is preparing for a visit to his presidential museum. It was an interesting tie-in to daily life.

Much like Thunderstruck and Devil in the White City, I am a little bereft after reading this narrative account of history. Larson manages to relate the facts in such a way that the people and facts stay with a person, their memories lingering on..... which to me is the mark of an excellent piece of nonfiction and does great service to the memories of the people that lived through such a harrowing experience. And his 'Sources & Acknowledgements' and exhaustive notes at the end of the book give a perfect opportunity of more research and reading.

I was fortunate to receive an Advance Reader's Copy of this book from Crown Publishing , to read for the online book club From Left to Write . I received no compensation for my review and all opinions are my own.

View all of my reviews on Goodreads

Amazon.com book review:
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.
Quick Facts: 
Print Length: 448 pages
Publisher: Crown (March 10, 2015)
Sold by: Random House LLC
Language: English

On March 26th From Left to Write will host an online blog discussion of what we all thought of this book, so make sure to check back then!


Heidi Sloss said...

Thanks for sharing your review, will have to add this to my list!