Welcome to the

Random words, pictures and thoughts of one who always wishes to be on the mind's road to discovery!

About Me

My photo
Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Friday, December 26, 2014

A Maritime Tragedy of Elegance on the Sea

Lusitania: Triumph, Tragedy, and the End of the Edwardian AgeLusitania: Triumph, Tragedy, and the End of the Edwardian Age by Greg King

Almost everyone in the world knows the story of the tragic collision of the Titanic and an iceberg in the North Atlantic. This is the story of an equally elegant ship populated by equally affluent and influential people sailing in unbelievable opulence in the opposite direction during a period when most of the Western world was at war. Here, then, is the Lusitania, the fastest ship on the seas, sailing under the guise of American neutrality from New York to Liverpool, through the Irish Sea and the war zone in which lurked German U-Boats.

On May 7, 1914 the commander of U-20 ordered the release of the torpedo that would send Lusitania to the bottom of the ocean within 15 minutes! That event, however, just a little over a hundred years ago, comes at the midpoint of this engrossing little book.

The authors begin the tale by setting the scene for us financially: a good motor car that would cost $1000 then, would in today's dollars cost $23 000. They provide a cast of characters, whose names and personalities are very familiar to the reader by the time the first explosion that rocked them and their late lunch, with portholes open to allow the lovely Spring breeze to enter the elegant rooms under an almost cloudless blue, sun drenched sky eleven miles off the shores of Ireland.

The writing's tone draws the reader into the early days of leisurely sailing with multiple changes of clothing, promenades and reading and lounging in deck chairs, writing letters, eating fabulous meals with strangers who become temporary friends, and following the social admonitions of Emily Post throughout. Yet, for some, there is some apprehension --the possibility of attack and the apparent lack of safety measures causing concern.

When the torpedo does come the reader, just as the passengers, experiences the shock, but disbelief that the ship will sink, through the fear, and panic and frantic reactions. We are carried overboard to be pulled down in the ship's suction only to bounce up. floating under an impossibly beautiful sky in freezing water. Eventually, some are saved and the authors take us ashore with them to the little town of Queensland and the beach where those who died wash up.

We are carried through the political manipulation of the story and then in an epilogue, we revisit the survivors to find what their lives became after the tragedy. It is such a well written book that the story seems as current as any in this morning's newspapers. The men and women and children--the passengers--the Captain and his officers on the Lusitania and even the Commander of the U-Boat are three-dimensional and real.

Anyone who enjoys the stories of the Edwardian Age and all its apparent splendor, who is fascinated by the social and technological changes of the early 20th century and who is interested in great human tragedies will find this book extremely rewarding and a fast read. It is, however, a book whose story lingers and brings home once more the fact that all the money in the world cannot protect mere mortals from overwhelming events and that some of the poorest of the poor can manage to survive them.

This was an Advance Uncorrected Proof that I received from BookBrowse to review

View all my reviews

No comments:

Post a Comment