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. Read more...
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.
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Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-04-27
- Reviewer: Staff
Reader Brick’s measured, natural voice is a soothing counterweight to Larson’s tragic recounting of the 1915 sinking of the British passenger ship Lusitania by a German U-boat—one of the catalysts for the United States’ eventual entry into World War I on the side of the Allied Powers. Brick maintains a steady hand when describing scenes of heightened emotion, such as the critical 18 minutes it took the ship to sink. He does not engage in showy voice characterizations or individual accents for the story’s international cast of characters, which includes English officers, American passengers, and the captain of the German U-boat (though Brick’s pronunciation of the book’s German words and names is excellent). Brick’s understated approach is fitting for this work of history, bringing poignant humanity to those who survived and those who lost their lives on the Lusitania. A Crown hardcover. (Mar.)