Dead Wake

The Lusitania, a British cruise ship built for war carried 2,000 people and crossed the Atlantic from Liverpool to New York City.  Unlike other cruise ships, the Lusitania traveled at about 21 knots, (24 miles per hour, which was very fast for that time period) and sliced through the ocean with its razor sharp bow.  Germany had just begun deploying U-boats, or submarines, to torpedo and destroy all British ships that pass through the “war zone”.  As the Lusitania crossed the Atlantic, German U-boats sunk more and more ships.  The British, however, did not have a way to protect them.

Erik Larson tells the story of the Lusitania from the point of view of many different people ranging from the passengers on the ship to a German submarine captain.  In May of 1915, a German submarine sunk the Lusitania killing over one thousand people and leaving many without families.  Before this happened however, nobody on the Lusitania thought that it could be torpedoed or even sunk because of its size and ferocious résumé.  “Games were heartily enjoyed on the decks during the day time and concerts were enjoyed in the evenings- sunshine and happiness making thoughts of danger almost impossible.”  The Germans had started World War One in Europe and their submarines swarmed the North Sea and the waters between Ireland and England.  Many of the passengers on the Lusitania were wealthy and famous Americans traveling to England to either visit family or do business and had no worries about the risk of being torpedoed.  In England, the government tried to ally with countries against Germany, including the U.S.A.  In America, there was a policy that stated that if any American citizens were killed on a vessel torpedoed by the Germans, they would ally with England.  When the Lusitania sunk and hundreds of Americans died, they allied with Britain, turning the tables of the war.  

Fans of historical books with many fascinating facts will enjoy Erik Larson’ Dead Wake.  He combines the story of the Lusitania with the emotions of the passengers to create a complex and entertaining story.  Larson jumps back and forth from America and their decision to join the war, to a German submarine, and the Lusitania with all of its passengers.  He always ends the chapter with something important, causing the reader to have to go on to find out more.  The depth at which he writes about the characters’ personalities and lifestyles is truly outstanding.  It giving the reader a sense of what it is like to be in that person’s shoes.  Eric Larson’s Dead Wake gives the reader a great example of a factual and truly entertaining book.