By Erik Larson
Rating: 4/5 Stairs
“On this particular voyage, give the convergence of disparate forces, timing was everything. Even the briefest delay could shape history.”
I must admit, when I was in school, history was not one of my favorite subjects. I think it could have been, had the material been presented in a more interesting narrative. But reading and memorizing facts did not capture my interest.
If Erik Larson books had been our reading material, my feelings on history class would have been very different.
This is the third book I’ve read by Mr. Larson. In each one he creates an engaging narrative, weaving a fascinating tale from an event in history. Dead Wake examines the sinking of the passenger ship Lusitania from a German submarine during WWI in 1915. The narrative is told from four different perspectives: The voyage of the Lusitania, whose final voyage took her from New York to England; the German submarine U-20, sent on patrol through England’s waters; Room 40, a secret branch in the Admiralty who intercepted and decoded German messages; and finally Washington, D.C., and the personal issues distracting President Wilson at the time.
Judging from the title, you would expect a fairly straight narrative describing the voyage of the Lusitania and her sinking. But this is an Erik Larson book. We get personal insight into her Captain as well as many of the passengers as we follow her final journey. We also learn a lot about the U-20; I found the history and operation of submarines used in WWI fascinating. The third piece of the puzzle is the Admiralty and exactly how much they knew, but were afraid to reveal and tip the German’s off that they had cracked their code.
The most interesting part about this story is how the so many small pieces combined together to create the perfect storm, putting the Lusitania directly into U-20’s path. It was a fascinating and tragic tale. Mr. Larsen turns the event from a paragraph in a history book to a living event filled with real people. His thorough research breathes life into the story, as we follow this great ship on her final voyage.
Many thanks to Blogging for Books for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.