An exploration of the sinking of the Lusitania, Dead Wake is so suspenseful and engaging that Larson actually had me hoping against history that the ship wouldn’t sink. Dramatic, fast-paced, and meticulously researched, Dead Wake will appeal to history lovers of all stripes. Recommended By Rhianna W., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
From the #1 New York Times
bestselling author and master of narrative nonfiction comes the enthralling story of the sinking of the Lusitania
, published to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the disaster.
On May 1, 1915, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were anxious. Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone, and for months, its U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the era's great transatlantic "Greyhounds" and her captain, William Thomas Turner, placed tremendous faith in the gentlemanly strictures of warfare that for a century had kept civilian ships safe from attack. He knew, moreover, that his ship — the fastest then in service — could outrun any threat.
Germany, however, was determined to change the rules of the game, and Walther Schwieger, the captain of Unterseeboot-20, was happy to oblige. Meanwhile, an ultra-secret British intelligence unit tracked Schwieger's U-boat, but told no one. As U-20 and the Lusitania made their way toward Liverpool, an array of forces both grand and achingly small — hubris, a chance fog, a closely guarded secret, and more — all converged to produce one of the great disasters of history.
It is a story that many of us think we know but don't, and Erik Larson tells it thrillingly, switching between hunter and hunted while painting a larger portrait of America at the height of the Progressive Era. Full of glamour, mystery, and real-life suspense, Dead Wake brings to life a cast of evocative characters, from famed Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat to pioneering female architect Theodate Pope Riddle to President Wilson, a man lost to grief, dreading the widening war but also captivated by the prospect of new love. Gripping and important, Dead Wake captures the sheer drama and emotional power of a disaster that helped place America on the road to war.
"Larson is one of the modern masters of popular narrative nonfiction...a resourceful reporter and a subtle stylist who understands the tricky art of Edward Scissorhands-ing narrative strands into a pleasing story....An entertaining book about a great subject, and it will do much to make this seismic event resonate for new generations of readers."
The New York Times Book Review
"Larson is an old hand at treating nonfiction like high drama....He knows how to pick details that have maximum soapy potential and then churn them down until they foam [and] has an eye for haunting, unexploited detail."
The New York Times
"In his gripping new examination of the last days of what was then the fastest cruise ship in the world, Larson brings the past stingingly alive....He draws upon telegrams, war logs, love letters, and survivor depositions to provide the intriguing details, things I didn't know I wanted to know....Thrilling, dramatic and powerful."
"This enthralling and richly detailed account demonstrates that there was far more going on beneath the surface than is generally known...Larson's account [of the Lusitania's sinking] is the most lucid and suspenseful yet written, and he finds genuine emotional power in the unlucky confluences of forces, 'large and achingly small,' that set the stage for the ship's agonizing final moments."
The Washington Post
"Utterly engrossing....Expertly ratcheting up the tension...Larson puts us on board with these people; it's page-turning history, breathing with life."
The Seattle Times
"Larson has a gift for transforming historical re-creations into popular recreations, and Dead Wake is no exception....[He] provides first-rate suspense, a remarkable achievement given that we already know how this is going to turn out....The tension, in the reader's easy chair, is unbearable..."
The Boston Globe
"[Larson] vividly captures the disaster and the ship's microcosm, in which the second class seems more appealing than the first."
The New Yorker
"An intriguing, entirely engrossing investigation into a legendary disaster."
Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Factual and personal to a high degree, the narrative reads like a grade-A thriller."
Booklist, starred review
"With a narrative as smooth as the titular passenger liner, Larson delivers a riveting account of one of the most tragic events of WWI....A blunt reminder that war is, at its most basic, a matter of life and death."
"Once again, Larson transforms a complex event into a thrilling human interest story. This suspenseful account will entice readers of military and maritime history along with lovers of popular history."
About the Author
Erik Larson is the author of four national bestsellers: In the Garden of Beasts, Thunderstruck, The Devil in the White City, and Isaac's Storm, which have collectively sold more than 5.5 million copies. His books have been published in fourteen countries.
Erik Larson on PowellsBooks.Blog