Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

Friends, it’s admittedly been too long since I’ve written a proper book review. I’ve spent a ton of time this year reading and prepping for the podcast and the reviews have fallen away, but they remain important to me and I plan to be more active in that area in 2022. That said, I just finished Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson and felt compelled to share it with all of you.

Most have heard of the ill-fated RMS Lusitania, but few of us probably know the real story. The Lusitania was a British cruise liner operated by Cunard Lines, launched in 1906. Not as large as the infamous Titanic, the ship was every bit as opulent, making trans-Atlantic crossings glamorous for the well-heeled, and bearable for those with shallower pockets.

The Lusitania’s story gets interesting though, and is the subject of Dead Wake, as World War I begins heating up and German U-boats begin indiscriminately torpedoing ships, regardless of nationality or purpose. And, as we now know, the Lusitania fell victim to the German submarine U-20 on May 7, 1915 off the Scottish coast, rapidly sinking into the cold but calm sea, killing 1,198 passengers and crew.

The story could be a relatively straight forward one, easy to breeze by and miss. But it is also just the type of event that Erik Larson excels at re-telling and he doesn’t disappoint with Dead Wake. Instead, he weaves a rich tapestry of suspense and intrigue, bringing us deep into the lives of some of the passengers, as well as into the minds of President Woodrow Wilson and Winston Churchill, into the secret Room 40 that decoded messages sent from Germany and other countries, and into the logs of the captains of U-20 and the Lusitania herself.

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson is a work of history that reads like a novel and I recommend it to you highly.

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