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Thursday, October 8, 2015


I recently read Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson (2015).  

Though non-fiction, EL did an amazing job of researching primary sources to weave a remarkable telling of the sinking of the British cruise liner RMS Lusitania in 1915.  

The work reads like a novel in that EL interweaves the personal stories of passengers on the ship (down to the clothes they were wearing), the communications and communications failures that contributed to the tragedy, the political calculations on the part of all countries involved in World War I at the time and the U.S. which was desperately trying to remain neutral, the executive determinations made by Cunard Lines (the ship’s owner), the decisions of the German submarine commander that gave the command to fire the fatal torpedo, the happenstances of the weather on that fateful day, and the actions and reactions of Captain Turner of the Lusitania.  

World War I was raging in Europe at the time, and had pretty much become a stalemate, with enormous loss of life on both sides.  The decision by the Germans to use their submarines to begin sinking all ships, neutral or foe, was intended to swing the momentum in the war decidedly their way.  Ultimately, the sinking of the Lusitania (with the loss of 1,198 lives) was a critical element that helped draw the U.S. into World War I, providing the Allies with a much needed infusion of troops and material.  This proved to be pivotal in the eventual victory of the Allies. 

Lots of political intrigue interwoven in this telling of one of the most tragic events in human history.  EL simply did a remarkable job of researching and telling this story.  I’ll read anything he writes.  

Thanks for the rec, jc. 

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