#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * From the bestselling author and master of narrative nonfiction comes the enthralling story of the sinking of the Lusitania
"Both terrifying and enthralling."--Entertainment Weekly
"Thrilling, dramatic and powerful."--NPR
"Thoroughly engrossing."--George R.R. Martin
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.
Finalist for the Washington State Book Award * One of the Best Books of the Year: The Washington Post, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Miami Herald, Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, LibraryReads, Indigo
- ISBN-13: 9780307408860
- ISBN-10: 0307408868
- Publisher: Crown Publishing Group (NY)
- Publish Date: March 2015
- Dimensions: 9.36 x 6.94 x 1.41 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.49 pounds
- Page Count: 448
The fateful voyage of the 'Lusitania'
BookPage Nonfiction Top Pick, March 2015
In an interview some years ago, Erik Larson, author of such bestsellers as The Devil in the White City and In the Garden of Beasts, called himself “an animator of history” rather than a historian. Indeed, he has always shown a brilliant ability to unearth the telling details of a story and has the narrative chops to bring a historical moment vividly alive. But in his new book, Larson simply outdoes himself.
Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania tells in riveting fashion the story of the final voyage of the top-of-the-line British passenger ship, which sailed from New York City on May 1, 1915, and was sunk by a German U-boat off the coast of Ireland six days later. The magnificent ship went down in only 18 minutes. Of its 1,959 passengers and crew, only 764 survived. Among the dead were 123 Americans, and the sinking of the Lusitania is often cited as the reason President Wilson dropped his vow of neutrality and led America into World War I.
But the U.S. entry into the war was more complicated. Larson gets at this complexity by presenting a portrait of Wilson in emotional tumult after the sudden death of his first wife and the dawn of a romance with the woman who would become his second wife. Also contributing to the complexity of international relations were the ruthless actions of the Germans and the machinations of the British Admiralty, headed by Winston Churchill, which in a top-secret effort had cracked German codes and was tracking the U-boat that ultimately sank the Lusitania, but inexplicably did nothing to prevent it.
These are the realpolitik aspects of the story Larson weaves in alternating chapters. But what is most compelling about Dead Wake is that, through astonishing research, Larson gives us a strong sense of the individuals—passengers and crew—aboard the Lusitania, heightening our sense of anxiety as we realize that some of the people we have come to know will go down with the ship.
A story full of ironies and “what-ifs,” Dead Wake is a tour de force of narrative history.
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read a Q&A with Larson about Dead Wake.