Monday, April 22, 2019

Dead Wake - Nonfiction Review

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

Rating:  Loved It!
Source: Library (Audio)

Description: On May 1, 1915, 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 anxious. Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone, and for months, its U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the era's great transatlantic "Greyhounds" 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. He knew, moreover, that his ship - the fastest then in service - could outrun any threat.
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, mystery, and real-life suspense, Dead Wake brings to life a cast of evocative characters, from famed Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat to pioneering female architect Theodate Pope Riddle to President 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 that helped place America on the road to war.

Genre: Nonfiction

Why I Picked This Book:  I had heard this recommended by the Modern Mrs. Darcy a number of times and I found the subject matter fascinating so I just had to listen to it!

My Impression:  I've been fascinated with shipwrecks since the day we got the National Geographic magazine all about the discovery of the Titanic in the mail.  Because of that I know a bit more about the Titanic than the Lusitania but I find it equally fascinating. 

This book turned almost everything I thought I knew about the sinking of the Lusitania on its ear and what it didn't change it fleshed out with such incredible detail.  This was one of the those books that I wanted to talk about all the time as I was reading it.  Each chapter brought interesting bits of information about the ship, the war, the passengers, as well as the sinking itself.  It was truly fascinating.  But what really connected me wasn't just the historical information but the biographies of the passengers.  Larson brought so many of them to life and at times had me teary listening to their poignant and tragic stories.  This was interesting, entertaining, and at times heartbreaking and a nonfiction book that not only kept me listening but that I was sorry to hear the end of.

The audio edition is narrated by Scott Brick who did a great job with the pacing and tone without ever lapsing into overly dramatic.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Absolutely!  I'm already looking forward to listening to other books by Larson.

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you are even the slightest bit interested in this topic than this is a must not miss. 


  1. I had that book a while back and found the sinking and immediate aftermath interesting. Maybe if I'd listened to it instead of reading it, would have been better for me.

    Speaking of true stories though....I was thinking of you when I posted about the movie The Dish. have you seen it? True story about Apollo 11 and the Australian dish transmitter. Loved it and I think you may as well as you work in the industry.

  2. The stories of the passengers would be so compelling, I would think, and make a tragic story even more so.

  3. Oh, now this I would like. I never it thought to listen to something like this. Adding to my wishlist!

  4. Oh, this sounds fascinating! I love well-written history, and I've encountered mentions of the Lusitania in so many historical novels and even mysteries (Christie's The Secret Adversary chief among them) that I really should learn more about it. Putting this on my TBR list.

  5. I loved this book! I thought it was better than the much-celebrated Devil in the White City, honestly!

  6. Wow, I can see why you loved it. It sounds fascinating.


  7. This is one of the many subjects I'd like to read more about if only I had time! Great review!

  8. I know very little about the Lusitania story so would be interested to find out more, especially from such a detailed account as this book

  9. I loved this book! I read it before I read the much-loved Devil in the White City and think this one is better