Dead Wake by Erik Larson

If you are happily contemplating a cruise vacation in the near future this might not be the book you want to read right now!

It’s the story of the last Atlantic crossing of the Cunard luxury liner in 1915 from New York to Liverpool, knowingly heading into the waters around Great Britain and Ireland in the dangerous days of World War I.  Supposedly, there was no danger for the passengers because Germany was unlikely to torpedo a civilian ship.  And it was expected that the British would furnish huge destroyer ships to help guide the Lusitania through the St George channel into Liverpool’s port.  But that didn’t happen.

But—-and therein lies the story.  For the Germans were likely to torpedo a civilian ship if they thought it might carry  munitions helpful to the British cause.

Larson tells a two part story–that of the liner, the Lusitania, its passengers, and in a side-by-side story, relates the actions of one U-boat–the U-30 which has its sights on the Lusitania for every page.

the departure of the Lusitania, photo taken from Life Magazine supplementary World War I special edition publication

the departure of the Lusitania, photo taken from Life Magazine supplementary World War I special edition publication

As your history tells you, a torpedo does indeed hit the Lusitania, and she sinks.  1969 passengers were on board and chaos reigned as lifeboats weren’t lowered correctly and life jackets failed.  Miraculously there were survivors.

(It is ironic that the Cunard line offered a 25% discount for any future cruiseline tickets to the survivors.  I wonder if there were any takers on that great deal!

This is a book that keeps the pages moving.   Almost as interesting as the book discussion was a member’s reading of a biography of the author, Larson.

In our book club, one member usually gives a biography of the author.  We select the books together–each bringing a list of 4 or 5 nominees, and we discuss the prospects of reading them–interlacing fiction, non-fiction and biography generally. Then a complete list is typed and sent to each member.  Votes are collected by email. Also, because the books we read are furnished for free by our library, we always have to make sure that there are enough books in the all- county system for our branch to order.

This was a good/great selection for discussion and would be a good one for your book group, too, maybe.  It combines history and action for good reading.

Four button review

Four button review



Next month’s book club selection is A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers.

Four button review

Four button review

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4 Responses to Dead Wake by Erik Larson

  1. Buttondeb says:

    Great book–a real surprise for me. I only wish my History books had been so well written.
    (And the nautical four buttons are quite fitting!)

  2. Stefanie says:

    I have no plans to take a cruise vacation but this does sound like some good summer reading!

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