Book Review: Dead Wake by Erik Larson

Dead Wake by Erik Larson Book Cover

Available at Amazon, 480 pages, March 2015

Having read and loved The Devil in the White City, I couldn’t wait to read Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson. And, as I’d expected, this book did not disappoint.

The title says it all. This is the story of the sinking of the passenger ship Lusitania in 1915 by a German submarine; an event often seen as the catalyst for America’s involvement in WWI (although that didn’t happen until a couple years later).

The author’s impeccable research shines through on a every page, while the conversational style of the writing brings you straight into the story. Despite all the facts and the huge cast of names to remember, it’s an easy read. A pleasurable read. I was truly engrossed the entire way through.

I do wish the book had more pictures (there’s just one of the ship out at sea), but I did appreciate the maps that help you visualize the area of the sinking and the areas in which the German submarine traveled to reach that spot.

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the disaster through the eyes of the people who lived through it, and reading their recollections in their own words. This is not a dramatization of the event, but a well-researched non-fiction book that reads like a novel. You come to care about the people involved and look forward to the Epilogue where the author explains what became of many of the survivors.

I recently saw a criticism that likened the sections of the book about President Wilson’s courtship with Edith Galt to the romantic plot of the movie Titanic, but that’s just ridiculous. I thought the parts about Wilson’s romance definitely needed to be in there. They gave you insight into his frame of mind during the time before, during and after the sinking. It was all relevant and played a role in his reluctance to enter the war. I appreciated learning about how Wilson’s personal life impacted his job as president.

Coincidentally, at the time I was reading this book, my son was studying WWI in his high school history class, and he came home all excited to tell me about how America entered the war. We had a lively discussion about the events leading up to the war, and because of Dead Wake, I was able to offer him a few of the lesser known facts and add specifics to parts of the story his class lecture glazed over. So we both benefited from the book! 🙂

I wholeheartedly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys history or books about the first world war. The prose is easy to understand, the timeline is clear and straightforward, and the event is covered from all angles: American, British and German; from political, to commercial to personal.

A fantastic book! 5 stars. 😀

For more information, visit the author’s website Erik Larson Books or Penguin Random House.

(FTC Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.)