For those who do know about the Lusitania, you know that it sank on 7 May 1915, after being struck by a German U-boat's torpedo. The victims, which consisted of an unusual amount of children and infants for a voyage, were a variety of nationalities. This included Americans. At the time, the US was still neutral in World War I. However, the sinking of the Lusitania and the loss of American lives put the US on a path that would lead to their joining the war in 1917. The political scenes in Germany, Britain, and the US were tense, angry, and bound to erupt. Which they did. This is the part of the tragedy that most history books focus on. However, in Dead Wake, Larson explores the event from the beginning. He traces the history of the Lusitania, while exploring the parallel history of the world and the boiling tensions that would erupt into a full scale world war. Reading Dead Wake, one will find stories of cowardice and heroism; there are descriptions of historical fact, along with eyewitness and news accounts. Like all of Larson's other books, by the time a reader is finished, they are thoroughly well versed and highly engrossed in the subject matter.
|Courtesy of http://eriklarsonbooks.com/about-the-author/|
Erik Larson also is a skillful historian; he is able to put into words the complex and often overwhelming political happenings of the particular time period in question. This almost on-the-spot recounting is wonderful and educational. Yet, it can be terrible as it leaves the reader constantly reaching for Google to further investigate into situations that Larson writes about! The political intrigue of the book is possibly the most fascinating part. The constant back and forth between different nations is suspenseful. Larson deftly illustrates how the strain from the seemingly endless war and the rapidly changing methods of warfare caused all governments to be divided. On one hand, there are those who are skeptical of the new methods of warfare, namely the submarine. They do not believe that subs can do any large-scale damage. On the other are those are painfully aware of what the introduction of submarines will do to modern warfare. This back and forth heightens the tension and suspense- all while the telling of the voyage itself is interspersed throughout the book- that leads to the event itself.
I know what you are thinking: you do not like nonfiction and history was and always will be boring. This is most definitely NOT the case in Erik Larson's books. He has the exceptional ability to make history relevant and exciting, to make even the most mundane details seem important and interesting. This is history at it's best. It's history stripped down of all the monotony and dull repetition that plagues history classes. This is history how it really was: uncertain, intriguing, devastating, and hopeful. Dead Wake and, honestly, any of Larson's other books, are more than worth the read.
Dead Wake is available for library check-out
and personal purchase 10 March 2015.
Special thanks to Crown Publishing Group and Erik Larson for my ARC!