Dead Wake

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the LusitaniaDead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After a presentation on Margaret Mackworth and the sinking of the Lusitania at our annual St. David’s Day luncheon in March, I was greatly looking forward to reading this. Although Erik Larson tells a good story based on thorough research, I was left wanting. I would like to have learned more about the passengers, and less about the minute by minute whereabouts of the German submarine that sank the Lusitania. This was more of a story about the two ship captains with a few asides about Woodrow Wilson and a few of the passengers. Although Margaret Mackworth was mentioned, I learned virtually nothing about her. And what about the members of the Gwent Male Voice Choir that were on the ship? It’s not a bad book but I don’t think it lives up to the author’s reputation. I shall have to try Diana Preston’s Lusitania.

Book description: On May 1, 1915, with WWI entering its tenth month, 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 surprisingly at ease, even though Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone. For months, German U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the era’s great transatlantic “Greyhounds”—the fastest liner then in service—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.

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.