On the 100th Anniversary of its sinking, King and Wilson tell the story of the Lusitania's glamorous passengers and the torpedo that ended an era and prompted the US entry into World War I.
Lusitania: She was a ship of dreams, carrying millionaires and aristocrats, actresses and impresarios, writers and suffragettes – a microcosm of the last years of the waning Edwardian Era and the coming influences of the Twentieth Century. When she left New York on her final voyage, she sailed from the New World to the Old; yet an encounter with the machinery of the New World, in the form of a primitive German U-Boat, sent her – and her gilded passengers – to their tragic deaths and opened up a new era of indiscriminate warfare.
A hundred years after her sinking, Lusitania remains an evocative ship of mystery. Was she carrying munitions that exploded? Did Winston Churchill engineer a conspiracy that doomed the liner? Lost amid these tangled skeins is the romantic, vibrant, and finally heartrending tale of the passengers who sailed aboard her. Lives, relationships, and marriages ended in the icy waters off the Irish Sea; those who survived were left haunted and plagued with guilt. Now, authors Greg King and Penny Wilson resurrect this lost, glittering world to show the golden age of travel and illuminate the most prominent of Lusitania's passengers. Rarely was an era so glamorous; rarely was a ship so magnificent; and rarely was the human element of tragedy so quickly lost to diplomatic maneuvers and militaristic threats.
The sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 has long existed in the shadow of the 1912 sinking of the Titanic. To give the Lusitania its due, King and Wilson flesh out the history of the ship's last voyage and the people who were a part of it. The account brims with rich detail about the ship itself, from the 200 miles of electric wiring that ran through it to the three barrels of live turtles that chefs brought on board. Though initially the book feels like a series of short biographies of the wealthy passengers, the excesses and dramas of these figures are quickly forgotten when the German U-Boat U-20 successfully torpedoes the Lusitania. King and Wilson excel at capturing the horrors of the event: lifebelts stolen from cabins, rickety lifeboats plunging into the ocean, passengers in the water getting sucked under by the sinking ship or having their eyes plucked out by seagulls. The ship was gone in 18 minutes, but questions still linger, with blame to be shared by the British Admiralty, Captain Turner, the Lusitania's cruise line, and of course, the U-Boat that fired the torpedo. This is a solid, fascinating account of a ship, its passengers, and its terrible fate.