Although I already knew the basics of the Lusitania's story, Larson's clear writing and dependably fresh approach ensured that I learned a good deal more, and enjoyed doing it.
The descriptions of the ship and its passengers are interesting and nicely detailed, if sometimes a bit too long and frivolous. There were only a couple of maps, adequate but not terrific, and surprisingly, only one photo, a shot of "Lucy" herself.
The real substance of the book, though, rests in the sections where Larson examines the international political situation and the often petty behind-the-scenes maneuverings that put the ship squarely in the U-boat's sights. From Wilson's selfish romantic distractions to Churchill's callous manipulations, the book provides a concise and often surprising summary of events, the hows as well as the whys, that caused the loss of so many lives. This may not be the definitive book on the Lusitania, but it's a good and engaging introduction to the essentials.
Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson is the history of the Lusitania brought to life from many different perspectives and at a truly human level. The details are meticulously researched, and the book successfully creates the sense of suspense present in a story well told. The book arrives in time for the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Lusitania.
Read my complete review at: http://www.memoriesfrombooks.com/2015/03/dead-wake-last-crossing-of-lusitania.html
Reviewed based on a copy received through a publishers giveaway
This book was a great accounting of the sinking of the Lusitania. I thought I knew the details of this incident but soon found I knew nothing about it. Filled with lots and lots of details. I never felt overwhelmed with all the information and often found myself reading very late into the night.
Excellent: Larson does for the Lusitania and its tragic end what Walter Lord did in the 1950s for Titanic: provide detail and context. Larson has the additional advantage that, while the doom of the Titanic and its passengers was more cock-up that conspiracy, the Lusitania was almost certainly the victim of the machinations of British politicians like Winston Churchill to get the neutral and isolationist USA into World War I. If, like me, you feel that the history we were taught in school bears little resemblance to the complications and nuances of how it actually might have happened -- this is the book for you.
My one complaint (and I read this on my kindle, so this may only apply to that edition): where are the pictures? Larson's descriptions of doomed and saved passengers and crew are very vivid, but I would have liked to see for myself.
I have read other books by Erik Larson and have enjoyed them very much. His historical detail and well written books really bring history to life. This is an excellent account of the sinking of the Lusitania which is hard to put down. Even though this is a horrifying story, the drama is well done. I highly recommend this book.