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Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania Kindle Edition
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“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
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"Larson is one of the modern masters of popular narrative nonfiction...a resourceful reporter and a subtle stylist who understands the tricky art of Edward Scissorhands-ing narrative strands into a pleasing story...An entertaining book about a great subject, and it will do much to make this seismic event resonate for new generations of readers."
—The New York Times Book Review
"Larson is an old hand at treating nonfiction like high drama...He knows how to pick details that have maximum soapy potential and then churn them down until they foam [and] has an eye for haunting, unexploited detail."
—The New York Times
"In his gripping new examination of the last days of what was then the fastest cruise ship in the world, Larson brings the past stingingly alive...He draws upon telegrams, war logs, love letters, and survivor depositions to provide the intriguing details, things I didn't know I wanted to know...Thrilling, dramatic and powerful."
"Larson is a journalist who writes non-fiction books that read like novels, real page-turners. This one is no exception. I had known a lot about the Titanic but little about the Lusitania. This filled in those gaps... this one is pretty damned good. Thoroughly engrossing."
—George R.R. Martin
"This enthralling and richly detailed account demonstrates that there was far more going on beneath the surface than is generally known...Larson's account [of the Lusitania's sinking] is the most lucid and suspenseful yet written, and he finds genuine emotional power in the unlucky confluences of forces, 'large and achingly small,' that set the stage for the ship's agonizing final moments."
—The Washington Post
"Utterly engrossing...Expertly ratcheting up the tension...Larson puts us on board with these people; it's page-turning history, breathing with life."
—The Seattle Times
"Larson has a gift for transforming historical re-creations into popular recreations, and Dead Wake is no exception...[He] provides first-rate suspense, a remarkable achievement given that we already know how this is going to turn out...The tension, in the reader's easy chair, is unbearable..."
—The Boston Globe
"Both terrifying and enthralling. As the two vessels stumble upon each other, the story almost takes on the narrative pulse of Jaws—the sinking was impossible and inevitable at the same time. At no point do you root for the shark, but Larson's incredible detail pulls you under and never lets you go."
"Erik Larson [has] made a career out of turning history into best sellers that read as urgently as thrillers...A meticulous master of non-fiction suspense."
"[Larson] vividly captures the disaster and the ship's microcosm, in which the second class seems more appealing than the first."
—The New Yorker
"[Larson is] a superb storyteller and a relentless research hound..."
—Lev Grossman, TIME
“[Larson] proves his mettle again as a weaver of tales of naïveté, calumny and intrigue. He engagingly sketches life aboard the liner and amply describes the powers’ political situations… The panorama Mr. Larson surveys is impressive, as is the breadth of his research and the length of his bibliography. He can’t miss engaging readers with the curious cast of characters, this ship of fools, and his accounting of the sinking itself and the survivors’ ordeals are the stuff of nightmares.”
"Readers looking for a swift, emotionally engaging account of one of history's great sea disasters will find Dead Wake grimly exhilarating. Larson is an exceptionally skilled storyteller, and his tick-tock narrative, which cuts between the Lusitania, U-20 and the political powers behind them, is pitch-perfect."
—The Richmond Times-Dispatch
"Larson so brilliantly elucidates [the Lusitania's fate] in Dead Wake, his detailed forensic and utterly engrossing account of the Lusitania's last voyage...Yes, we know how the story of the Lusitania ends, but there's still plenty of white-knuckle tension. In Dead Wake, he delivers such a marvelously thorough investigation of the ship's last week that it practically begs Hollywood blockbuster treatment."
—The Toronto Globe & Mail
"Larson's nimble, exquisitely researched tale puts you dead center...Larson deftly pulls off the near-magical feat of taking a foregone conclusion and conjuring a tale that's suspenseful, moving and altogether riveting."
—Dallas Morning News
"With each revelation from Britain and America, with each tense, claustrophobic scene aboard U-20, the German sub that torpedoed the ship, with each vignette from the Lusitania, Larson's well-paced narrative ratchets the suspense. His eye for the ironic detail keen, his sense of this time period perceptive, Larson spins a sweeping tale that gives the Lusitania its due attention. His book may well send Leonardo DiCaprio chasing its film rights."
—San Francisco Chronicle
"An expertly crafted tale of individual and corporate hubris, governmental intrigue and cover-up, highlighting a stunning series of conincidences and miscalculations that ultimately placed the Lusitania in the direct path of the catastrophic strike...[Larson's] pacing is impeccable."
—The Miami Herald
"[Larson] has a gift for finding the small, personal details that bring history to life...His depiction of the sinking of the ship, and the horrific 18 minutes between the time it was hit and the time it disappeared, is masterly, moving between strange, touching details."
"In the hands of a lesser craftsman, the fascinating story of the last crossing of the Lusitania might risk being bogged down by dull character portraits, painstaking technical analyses of submarine tactics or the minutiae of WWI-era global politics. Not so with Erik Larson...Larson wrestles these disparate narratives into a unified, coherent story and so creates a riveting account of the Lusitania's ending and the beginnings of the U.S.'s involvement in the war."
—Pittsburgh Post Gazette
"In your mind, the sinking of the luxury liner Lusitania may be filed in a cubbyhole...After reading Erik Larson's impressive reconstruction of the Lusitania's demise, you're going to need a much bigger cubbyhole...Larson's book is a work of carefully sourced nonfiction, not a novelization, but it has a narrative sweep and miniseries pacing that make it highly entertaining as well as informative."
—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"Larson breathes life into narrative history like few writers working today."
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Now the tragic footnote to a global conflagration, the history of the [Lusitania's] final voyage... is worthy of the pathos and narrative artistry Erik Larson brings to Dead Wake...Reader's of Larson's previous nonfiction page turners...will not be disappointed. He's an excellent scene setter and diligent researcher who tells the story with finesse and suspense."
"The story of the Lusitania's sinking by a German U-boat has been told before, but Larson's version features new details and the gripping immediacy he's famous for."
"We can't wait for the James Cameron version of Erik Larson's Dead Wake."
—New York Magazine
"Larson...long ago mastered the art of finding overlooked and faded curiosities and converting them into page-turning popular histories. Here, again, he manages the same trick."
—Christian Science Monitor
"Fans of Erik Larson's narrative nonfiction have trusted that whatever tale he chooses to tell, they'll find it compelling. Dead Wake proves them right...History at its harrowing best."
—New York Daily News
"A quickly paced, imminently readable exploration of an old story you may only half-know."
—Arkansas Democratic Gazette
"We all know how the story ends, but Larson still makes you want to turn the pages, and turn them quickly. What makes the story, is that Larson takes a few main characters--the Lusitania's Captain William Thomas Turner, President Woodrow Wilson, U-boat Captain Walther Schweiger, Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat, architect Theodate Pope, and a few minor ones--and weaves them together towards the inevitable and tragic conclusion. Larson has done his research. The number of details and anecdotes that he has managed to cobble together are fascinating in themselves."
"Larson turns this familiar tale into a finely written elegy on the contingency of war."
“Larson is a master storyteller and quickens the pace as target and attackers hurtle toward their inevitable, deadly rendezvous. The suspense builds because readers care about his fully-formed characters, and it’s not always clear who will live and who will die.”
"Because Larson has such a sense of story, when he gets to the tragedy itself, the book hums along in vivid form. You feel, viscerally, what it's like to be on a sinking ship, and the weight of life lost that day. The fact that this is coming through a page-turner history book, where all the figures and details reveal an impeccable eye and thorough research, is just one of the odd pleasures of Larson's writing."
“[Larson] thrillingly chronicles the liner’s last voyage... He draws upon a wealth of sources for his subject – telegrams, wireless messages, survivor depositions, secret intelligence ledgers, a submarine captain’s war log, love letters, admiralty and university archives, even morgue photos of Lusitania victims… Filled with revealing political, military and social information, Larson’s engrossing Dead Wake is, at its heart, a benediction for the 1,198 souls lost at sea.”
—Tampa Bay Times
"Larson, an authority on nonfiction accounts, expounds on our primary education, putting faces to the disaster and crafting an intimate portrait in Dead Wake. A lover of history will get so close to the story...that it is hard not to feel as if you are on board with new friends..."
—Fort Worth Star-Telegram
"In a well-paced narrative, Larson reveals the forces large and small, natural and man-made, coincidental and intentional, that propelled the Lusitania to its fatal rendezvous...Larson's description of the moments and hours that followed the torpedo's explosive impact is riveting...Dead Wake stands on its own as a gripping recounting of an episode that still has the power to haunt a reader 100 years later."
"Larson, who was once described as "an historian with a novelist's soul," has written a book which combines the absorbing tenor of fiction with the realities of history."
—The Toronto Sun
"[Larson] shows that narrative history can let us have it both ways: great drama wedded to rigorous knowledge. The German torpedoing of the great ship 100 years ago was almost as deadly as the Titanic sinking, and far more world-changing. Larson makes it feel as immediate and contingent as the present day."
—NY Mag's Vulture.com
"The bestselling author of The Devil in the White City and Thunderstruck puts his mastery of penning parallel narratives on display as he tells the tale of the sinking of the Lusitania by a German submarine, building an ever-growing sense of dread as the two vessels draw closer to their lethal meeting...He goes well beyond what's taught in history classes to offer insights into British intelligence and the dealings that kept the ship from having the military escort so many passengers expected to protect it...By piecing together how politics, economics, technology, and even the weather combined to produce an event that seemed both unlikely and inevitable, he offers a fresh look at a world-shaking disaster."
—The Onion A/V Club
"An intriguing, entirely engrossing investigation into a legendary disaster."
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Factual and personal to a high degree, the narrative reads like a grade-A thriller."
—Booklist, starred review
"[Larson] 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...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."
—BookPage, Top Pick
"With a narrative as smooth as the titular passenger liner, Larson delivers a riveting account of one of the most tragic events of WWI...A blunt reminder that war is, at its most basic, a matter of life and death."
"Once again, Larson transforms a complex event into a thrilling human interest story. This suspenseful account will entice readers of military and maritime history along with lovers of popular history."
"Critically acclaimed 'master of narrative nonfiction' Erik Larson has produced a thrilling account of the principals and the times surrounding this tumultuous event in world history...After an intimate look at the passengers, and soon-to-be victims, who board in New York despite the warning of 'unrestricted warfare' from the German embassy, Larson turns up the pace with shorter and shorter chapters alternating between the hunted and the hunter until the actual shot. All in all a significant story. Well told."
"...the tension mounts page by page and the reading of Dead Wake becomes a very cinematic experience."
An Amazon Best Book of the Month for March 2015: On May 1st, 1915 the Lusitania set sail on its final voyage. That it was sunk by a German U-boat will be news to few—and Larson’s challenge is to craft a historical narrative leading up to the thrilling, if known, conclusion, building anticipation in his readers along the way. To his credit, he makes the task look easy. Focusing on the politics of WWI, on nautical craftsmanship and strategy, and on key players in the eventual attack and sinking of the “fast, comfortable, and beloved” Lusitania, Larson once again illustrates his gift for seducing us with history and giving it a human face. Dead Wake puts readers right aboard the famous Cunard liner and keeps them turning the pages until the book’s final, breathless encounter. – Chris Schluep--This text refers to the hardcover edition.
- ASIN : B00N6PD3GE
- Publisher : Crown; Reprint edition (March 10, 2015)
- Publication date : March 10, 2015
- Language : English
- File size : 5748 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 482 pages
- Page numbers source ISBN : 0307408876
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #21,453 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Reviewed in the United States on May 25, 2015
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Top reviews from the United States
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By introducing us to the captain and several passengers in the initial chapters, Larson enables us readers to become rather intimate with them and to see them as fellow beings with abilities, shortcomings, worries, loves and eccentricities. They represent the nearly 2,000 people aboard the fated ship and through them we come to care what befalls these doomed souls. We also come to view events through other eyes, those of the commander of Unterseeboot zwanzig, U-20, the submarine that launches the fatal torpedo.
Dead Wake also reaches beyond the Lusitania into the British Admiralty, and we learn something of the personalities and actions of a few significant government officials. We learn of Room 40, a precursor of Bletchley Park, the secret code-breaking operation of the government. Back in the still-isolationist United States, we see President Woodrow Wilson continuing to resist joining the far-off European war even as the bodies of U.S. citizens piled higher as Germany began more and more to disregard flags of neutral countries and to attack all shipping without exception. We wonder to what extent Wilson's personal grief over the death of his wife and his pursuit of the affections of Edith Bolling Galt distracted him from world affairs.
We are reminded that the sinking of the Lusitania did not precipitate entry of the U.S. into World War I and that, in fact, about two years passed between those two events. An intercepted telegram from the German foreign secretary, Arthur Zimmermann, to the the president of Mexico urged an alliance with Germany and, assuming victory by the Central Powers, offered to give the states of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona to Mexico. (Publication of that offer in U.S. newspapers was much more the death knell of isolationist sentiment than was the destruction of the Lusitania.)
Dead Wake, in short, is an excellent history of the years leading up to the entry of the U.S. in The Great War, years in which Germany held the upper hand at sea, years in which civilian passengers died in increasing numbers before the term “collateral damage” became common, years in which perhaps—just perhaps—British naval protection of ships such as the Lusitania was intentionally weak so that a disastrous attack, should one occur, might goad the U.S. into fighting alongside Allied forces. We understand why the British Admiralty ordered the recall of the only fast ship that had begun to sail to the rescue of survivors floundering in the frigid ocean. Erik Larson regales us with the known facts and suggests the possibilities in a non-fiction history book that is as captivating as any spy-thriller novel. I cannot envision a reader willingly putting this book down once he or she has once begun it.
From page one, the story slowly builds to a crescendo that is searing, heartbreaking, tragic, and absolutely frustrating—because at so many points along the way, the sinking of the famed passenger ship Lusitania by a German U-boat on May 7, 1915 eleven miles off the southern coast of Ireland could have been prevented.
Even though we all know the ending, author Eric Larson is a masterful storyteller using a novelist's favorite tool in this nonfiction tome: Each chapter tells the tale from a different point of view, including the Lusitania's Captain William Thomas Turner, various passengers on ship who are both famous and ordinary, the German U-boat's Captain Walther Schwieger and his crew, the cipher decoders in Britain's top secret Room 40, and President Woodrow Wilson, who was grief-stricken over the death of his wife but soon fell in love (as in head over heels) with another woman. In addition to the specific story of the sinking of the Lusitania, the book is a fascinating treasure trove of early 20th century culture, fashion, and mores as World War I was ramping up.
Bonus: The findings—both immediately after the sinking and decades later—of why this tragedy happened are truly shocking.
Because of Larson's prodigious research and ability to weave a good story, readers are treated to the best kind of nonfiction book: a fact-filled page-turner.
Top reviews from other countries
Although it initially seemed that Lusitania was a ship that had learnt the lessons of Titanic, with passengers assured that there were lifeboats for all, this sinking again shows how size, and speed, were seen as all important in terms of safety. Although the ship had been warned that it would be in danger, when it sailed into the war zone, most passengers accepted the assurances that they could outrun submarines (they obviously didn't) or would be given an escort by the British Navy (they weren't). The Captain swung out lifeboats as the ship neared Ireland, and messages warned of U-boats, but circumstances meant actions taken failed to help when disaster struck. Although some passengers were nervous, again, it was seen as wiser to deny the danger, even after the ship had been hit; meaning passengers were unsure where to go, or what to do, and many were unaware of how to put on life-jackets correctly, meaning they died unnecessarily. This was especially true as the ship sank quickly and there were a large number of families and children aboard.
This is a good overview of the disaster, and the aftermath, as well as the political situation during wartime and how the sinking of the Lusitania helped sway public opinion.
I do find surprising, however, that, although Larson tells us about life on the Lusitania through many of its passengers, he focuses only on first and second class ones. He doesn't speak at all about anyone in third class. And even amongst the first and second class, he gives us glimpses of only a few. I think it would have added so much if he had included even more personal stories, giving us an even richer and deeper understanding of the people involved and the lives lost on that day. Some of the most famous ones he virtually ignores. Also, so many of the passengers were just children. I would have like to know more about them. The human side of this story is so compelling.
All in all, though, it is quite a good read. Definitely worth buying and it won't take you long to go through it.
We all know what happened to the Lusitania. But that doesn't make the story - and Larson's account - any less edge-of-seat. The subject and the author certainly stirs the passions! It's a bit like watching a disaster movie, where one knows what happens, but still can't help willing that the end will somehow be different. And there's an incredulity to it, as well. Surely Kaiser Bill and his cronies knew that by sinking a ship with so many US citizens on board would encourage the States to enter the war (though it wasn't quick in doing so, even then)? The commander of U-20 patrols the waters around the British Isles sinking any unfortunate vessel that came into his sights, regardless of the neutrality of many. The German Empire seemed to be hellbent on the destruction of anything and everything (arguably, even itself).
There's a lot of controversy surrounding the sinking of the Lusitania, obviously. How could the Germans be so cruel and heartless to sink a merchant ship with nearly two-thousand innocent civilians on board? Larson reels of the figures: 'Of the Lusitania's 1,959 passengers and crew, only 764 survived; the total of deaths was 1,195. The three German stowaways brought the total to 1,198. Of 33 infants aboard, only 6 survived. Over 600 passengers were never found. Among the dead were 123 Americans.'
But was the British Admiralty culpable? Why didn't navy ships escort the Lusitania through the war zone? Why did one torpedo sink a ship as big as her (although the authorities persisted in claiming it was two)? Why did it only take eighteen minutes for the liner to sink? And why had the King previously asked if America would enter the war if the Lusitania was lost? In other words, was the Lusitania sacrificed to provoke the US to join the Allies?
Larson's account is compelling and stirs a lot of passions. That the U-boat crew celebrated the sinking and the German people were jubilant disgusts me. His wife later claimed that the U-boat commander was a broken man after he realised what he has done, but his later actions bely that. I am against the death penalty, but I was pleased when I read that his later command was sunk and he was lost. Equally, I am disgusted that the Admirality may have sacrificed the Lusitania and those on board for the war effort. Of course, it's all conjecture and unlikely that we will ever know the truth, but the conspiracy theories will continue. And the 'what ifs' are equally maddening: What if the Lusitania's departure from New York hadn't been delayed? What if she hadn't stopped for two hours to pick up passengers from another ship commandeered by the Admiralty? What if she had been travelling at full speed, rather than slower to save coal? What if the fog hadn't lifted? Indeed, the Lusitania's sister ship, Mauretania, narrowly avoided a U-boat attack herself. So much was down to chance.
In other words, a ripping yarn.