Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson is one of those books that you pick up and read the back and think "okay, this is probably a dry history lesson". That was my first thought when I first saw it, but something about it piqued my interest, so I read several reviews of it. The reviews convinced me that this book was a must-read, and I wasn't disappointed. The book description reads:
"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."
Larson has managed to take this sometimes forgotten, but incredibly important and interesting event, and turn it from what could have been a dry history lesson into an amazing, epic, sweeping tale. He effortlessly brings the cast of characters to life, and manages to make you feel like you're right there in the midst of the story, even though it happened so many years ago. In general, I'm not much into war history nonfiction books. However, every once in awhile I find a great one, and this is definitely one of them. I highly recommend this one - you'll feel like you've been transported back in time. My only complaint - and this is why I took off one star - is that there are no pictures included. I'd have loved to seen some pictures to get a more vivid mental picture of the events.
I received a copy of this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.