#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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
A hundred years after the sinking of the RMS Lusitania just 11 miles off the coast of Ireland, celebrated nonfiction author Erik Larson brings the famed ocean liner back to life in dazzling, high-definition detail. Larson—renowned for his 2003 bestseller The Devil in the White City—is a skilled reporter and master storyteller. His beautifully drawn retelling of the Lusitania’s mysterious encounter with a German submarine during World War I captures every possible drop of drama and suspense.
With a narrative as smooth as the titular passenger liner, Larson (In the Garden of Beasts) delivers a riveting account of one of the most tragic events of WWI. The fact a German U-boat sank the Lusitania off the coast of Ireland in May 1915 is undisputed, so Larson crafts the story as historical suspense by weaving information about the war and the development of submarine technology with an interesting cast of characters. He expertly builds tension up to the final encounter. An unanticipated sequence of events put the Lusitania in the path of Capt. Walther Schwieger's U-20, and he didn't hesitate to open fire. The Lusitania's captain, the capable and accomplished William Thomas Turner, did everything in his power to avert the catastrophe, but fate intervened, taking the lives of 1,195 passengers and crew members, including 123 Americans. Despite the stunning loss of life, President Woodrow Wilson held firm to American neutrality in the war, at least in 1915. Larson convincingly constructs his case for what happened and why, and by the end, we care about the individual passengers we've come to know a blunt reminder that war is, at its most basic, a matter of life and death. Illus.
Much-Anticipated, but Disappointed
Bound up in personal details without much substantive geopolitical detail, other than some conspiracy theories, about the part the story played in America’s intervention in WW1. Proved to be a decent read until the end, when I realized that the last third of the book was dedicated to epilogue, appendices, and marketing material for Larson.
Basically I love historical books and delve into them with passion. I loved Devil in the White City, full of interesting details about a city I truly love.
Dead Wake was so full of non essential people and their names, I could not keep track. So much minutiae that my brain glazed over. I was so ready to see the boat sink and put an end to the over winded dialogue. Sorry Erik, you are a great writer, but this book could have been at least a third shorter.