Monday, March 23, 2015

Dead Wake by Erik Larson

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson was a good book on the British ocean liner that was sunk by a German U-boat on May 7, 1915, killing over 1,000 onboard.

I've now read the last five books of historical non-fiction from Larson, with the prior ones In the Garden of Beasts, Thunderstruck, The Devil in the White City, and Isaac's Storm and while I enjoyed Dead Wake quite a bit, I probably put it in the middle of the pack for me, with my favorites from Larson Isaac's Storm and In the Garden of Beasts.

As with all of his books I've read, Larson provides engrossing storytelling along with great detail and what struck me the most from the book was the role played by the British Navy during this period of WWI prior to the U.S. entering the war. It was fascinating to read of how Winston Churchill as the top British Naval Officer privately expressed that if German sub being responsible for the death of a number of American passengers, the United States might cast aside neutrality and enter the war.

With it being either in the form of a conspiracy to put the Lusitania in danger or just simple gross negligence, it was interesting reading of how much information wasn't passed along by the British Navy to The Lusitania, both around movements of German U-boats and a better route to take into England, via the North Channel between Scotland and Ireland. Additionally, the ship was lacking a Naval Escort in British waters, even though that both requested by Lusitania owners and provided for another British ship. Then after the sinking, British officials tried to blame and even prosecute the captain, while knowing full well how much more they could have done to help keep the ship safe.

Really a fascinating story well told by Larson.