Friday, March 27, 2015

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

Author: Erik Larson

Rating: 5 Stars

Before I start, I must say I have been waiting ever so (im)patiently for this book to arrive. I started it the very night I checked it out and finished it the next. I could hardly put it down, and luckily I only had to do that once, as I finished it in two sittings. Wonderfully, heartbreakingly written. Fantastic work, Mr. Larson.


After having read Devil in the White City, I knew in the future I'd always put every other book on pause for a new Erik Larson book. That's exactly what happened with this one, and it did not disappoint. From starting it last night to finishing it tonight, it took me only about four hours to read. I could not put it down, even though many times I wanted to. I could not bear the thought of all those little ones going into the sea, of the possibility of Robert Kaye's mother giving birth in the water - something that haunted him the rest of his life - of little Betty, who did not survive despite her mother's attempt. It just makes my heart hurt to think of the children who were separated from their parents in the chaos. We can only hope that death came quickly and that they did not suffer - though we also get the impression that was not the case.

It infuriates me beyond belief the behavior of Room 40. They wanted the Lusitania to be attacked because American deaths would bring America into WWI. Yet Wilson waited another TWO YEARS before finally declaring war on Germany. All those deaths were in vain, all those children, I honestly can hardly even think of it. I realize that perhaps my extra sensitivity comes from being a parent myself to a small child who I love more than anything in this world, and it would destroy me completely should anything ever happen to her, as it must've destroyed these families who lost their children. 

As always, Larson delivers an engaging story filled with facts. He weaves the narrative together so seamlessly, it reads like a novel and I wish it were, but sadly we know that's not true. Larson has clearly done the research and the book drew me in further and further as the Lusitania glided speedily toward her doom, the fate that Room 40 and U-20 had assigned her.

I've lost quite a bit of respect I had for Churchill, not only for his remarks that merchant ships are 'on their own' (LIE! - what about the Orion and several other ships who had been given escorts?!) and also the treatment of Captain Turner and the attempts to fault him for the tragedy. First and foremost, this was murder committed by Germany and Captain Schwieger and his crew. Secondly, escorts had been provided to countless other ships in the area, yet somehow the Lusitania did not merit the same attention, despite it being obvious she was a target.

Any review can never come close to doing this book and subject justice. Larson is a talented writer who delivers an awesome and awful story; well worth the wait

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