Sunday, July 17, 2016

Book Review - Dead Wake

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the LusitaniaDead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm very late to the Erik Larson game - shame on me! This is my second book of his, and for a second time I'm most impressed by the description of the era when the events occurred. Dead Wake describes the sinking of the Lusitania, offering perspective from the ship passengers (offering accounts of survivors before and after the attack), U.S. policy and attitude towards WWI, British Intelligence, and Germany's U-20 Submarine (they're most "successful" submarine during WWI and that which performed the sinking itself).

Erik Larson masterfully combines the 4 main aforementioned parties into a cohesive text. Throughout the book you are offered insight into the joy of those traveling the Lusitania, knowing full well the impending doom that faces them. You are offered terror as you understand the purpose of the German U-Boats intended to terrorize shipping\traveling across the seas. You are offered political jeopardy as you witness Britain's "Room 40" secretly monitoring and cracking German transmissions, but unable to take action as to not tip their hand. You are offered heartache and intrigue at the highest level of political office as you are introduced to Woodrow Wilson's broken-hearted presidency following the death of his wife, amidst the greatest crisis his generation had been witness to.

The book reads like a chronological time bomb, knowing full well the fate of so many of the passengers but remains compelling nonetheless. Despite taking place over 100 years ago you can still smell the saltwater, picture the ship passengers dressed in period attire and hear their native accents as they "speak".

As interesting as this book was, the final chapter was truly masterful, putting it "over the top". Following the sinking of the ship, a final chapter is dedicated solely to the gravity of the action in the United States and the series of steps taken that would ultimately lead to our entrance to World War 1. It wasn't the sinking of the Lusitania that pulled us into war, it was the beginning of that decision, one that was entered into with heavy heart and great timidness.

This isn't a book about World War I, or Nazi Germany, or secret intelligence or U.S. policy - it's a combination of *all* of those items offering intense, vibrant description of that generation's "9/11" and how the world would forever change.

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