Book in Review: Dead Wake

Dead Wake is a sad story brilliantly recounted by Eric Larson of the sinking of the Lusitania, released on the hundred year anniversary of the tragedy. The book reads well throughout and really picks up steam at about the half way mark. In "Dead Wake" Larson lets the accounts of people who were there do the telling of the story, keeping his narration fairly minimal. This breaths life into an account that could easily have been a dry narrative.

Larson does a great job of allowing the reader to get emotionally connected to the story. I felt the excitement of the passengers as they boarded the great steamer. I felt the terror of the mothers once the torpedo struck. I felt animosity towards the contradictory nature of the U-Boat Captain Schwieger. I even felt a degree of confusion regarding the British lackadaisical response to the Lusitania entering a zone that they were assured from intelligence had the U-20. Was a conspiracy a foot to draw the USA into the war? No one knows though Larson hints at impure motives among the British. All this to say, this book drew me in!

My primary complaint with this book is that though Larson's many accounts are a clear strength in his writing--giving the reader a feeling of what it was like 100 years ago--I found it difficult to constantly jump from eye witness account to eye witness account. I likewise found Larson's descriptions of the many characters in the story slightly scattered.

This was a good book. It was somber book. It is one thing for a historian to tell a story accurately, it is quite another thing for a historian connect his readers to it. Larson did both.

4/5 Stars. Find my review helpful? Let me know at


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