Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Review: Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

Description (from cover):

'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.'

My thoughts:

Very rarely do I delve into the realm of nonfiction, however, when it comes to Erik Larson, I am always ready to read one of his books. Larson has a way with weaving a story and using the people who dance across his pages to tell history's greatest tales. The author uses their stories to tell the story of whatever subject he is writing about. In this case, the topic was the sinking of the Lusitania. I had learned about the Lusitania in school, but it was very brief overview of the situation and how important this disaster was to bringing America into WWI. 

After reading this book, my view of the situation as I learned it in school has changed. The sinking of the Lusitania  was two years before America decided to engage itself in the conflict. The Lusitania disaster certainly was a triggering event, but not the only factor that drew America into the first World War. I found it interesting that the common misconception was that it was because this happened that America joined the Allied forces in the war that shaped modern warfare. In fact, I had even believed the same. It is an accurate description in the blurb of this book that "It is a story that many of us think we know but don't..."

Nonfiction is a genre that sometimes seems foreign to me as I read a lot of fiction books. However, Erik Larson is one of my favorite nonfiction writers hands down. I always engage in the story and learn so much when I read one of his books. The man could probably write about dirt and I would enjoy it. Another phenomenal read by a nonfiction genius.

Overall Rating: 5+

Title:  Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania
Author:  Erik Larson
Series:  N/A
Publisher:  Crown Publishers
Publication Date:  March 10, 2015
Pages:  430
Genre:  Nonfiction
Get It:  Amazon; Barnes & Noble

Disclaimer: This book was given to me by the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for my honest review. I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.

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