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

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Erik Larson Does it Again--Dead Wake

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the LusitaniaDead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Just as in all his books, Erik Larson does his research and spins a tale of non-fiction as engrossing and interesting as any novel. His main character in this one is the elegant, stream-lined, grayhound of the seas, HMS Lusitania. She is a tragic figure, populated with the rich and influential, traveling to England for varied reasons from reunion with family to making business deals likely to make them richer and more influential. There are also the more modest passengers, enjoying a bit of opulence as they travel to Europe.
Here, too,is the Captain--Turner, who has worked his way through the ranks of the Cunard company to command this fastest ocean liner. All of these people are entering an area around Ireland that Germany has declared a war zone. Indeed, the German government has taken out an ad in the New York papers warning that any ship in the zone, neutral or otherwise, is fair game for her U-Boats, patrolling the area.
Nevertheless, the ship heads out of New York Harbor, planning on running up a US flag on its mast when in the war zone and docking safely in Liverpool, most likely escorted by British naval vessels for protection.
Larson takes us through the New York preparations of the ship, through the boarding of passengers, to the embarkation and across the Atlantic. We meet several of the passengers and learn of their sea water baths, their lavish dining, the quiet strolls along the decks, the laughter of children, and evening entertainments. As we travel with her, he also takes us to the claustrophobic atmosphere of a German U-boat, captained by a leader every bit as experienced and capable as Captain Turner, Walther Schwieger. Here we learn of the dangers and tribulations of life on a torpedo laden dweller of the deep, blind to its surrounding when submerged and open to detection when it is not.

The closer the two ships come to each other, the greater the tension that builds until Turner shifts the angle of the Lusitania along the Irish coast and Schwieger lines up the torpedo he will loose into her bow. As it finds its mark under the disbelieving gaze of several of its passengers, U-20 after one last glance at the devastation, makes its way to the open sea and the Lusitania begins its journey to the bottom of the ocean, where it will come to rest within 15-20 minutes.
And during those final minutes, Larson again takes us among her passengers until at last, the living are rescued and the dead are laid to rest.

I would suggest if you wish to know more about some of these people that you read another book--Lusitania by Greg King and Penny Wilson. Between the two books, the full story of the ship and her human mates arises from the mists of over 100 years.

View all my reviews

No comments:

Post a Comment