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Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania
Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson recounts an event, where about 1,200 people died, many of them within a half hour, from multiple perspectives.
As Larson is wont to do, he thoroughly researches the topic ahead of time and pulls together a cast of characters that are smart, entertaining, and relatable. And, on a ship where so many people died or survived instantaneously and primarily by chance, he mimics the experience of not everyone you meet surviving.
This reviewer loves Erik Larson, and this book holds up to his other novels, though Devil in the White City and Thunderstruck still remain his best work. Dead Wake has a slightly different tone than the others, though this reviewer can’t put their finger on why.
It’s also interesting what perspectives Larson chooses to explore, including one of the men who torpedoed the Lusitania. The comparison of the experience on the Lusitania verses on the submarine is striking and disturbing, and a worthwhile reflection on what it means to drop a bomb, from the military releasing it and to the people on the receiving end (military or not).
Overall, the book was gripping and informative, bringing to life those in the past who have simply become statistics and facts. Larson is good at that. And if you’re a Larson fan, don’t miss this one.
If you’re a fan of Larson, we recommend checking out Devil in the White City.
FHR Tip: This one may be obvious, but it wasn’t to me, so here goes: Larson follows this group of people throughout the traumatic event, which includes realistic scenes of panic, dying, despair, and death itself. A few passages from this book were difficult for this reader, though I have a weak stomach for human tragedy. One particular scene still haunts the back of my mind. If you’re like me, and you have to read this book, put it down after the missile is fired (if you have the self-control), or maybe pass on this one.