Saturday, March 14, 2015

Dead Wake by Erik Larson

 Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania  by Erik Larson is a poignant dramatized story of the sinking of the Lusitania of WW1.  This vivid drama gives not only the historical details of this pivotal event, but the emotional behind the scenes  drama that you will not read in history books.  I was so engrossed in the tory, especially the powerful account of the ship's demise.  Following the stories of multiple  voices gives the reader a unique omnipotent view of the overall picture.  This is especially moving during the account of the ship's sinking.  Going beyond a simple news paper-esque account, the author, Erik Larsen shares the intimate thoughts and emotions of the passengers as they face death.  A young boy with measles is separated from his pregnant mother in the commotion and panic as the ship is sinking.  His last horrific memory of the event is the haunting image of his mother giving birth in the cold see.  The traumatic image haunts him all the remaining days of his life.  Though the words are few, and the image is recounted in a single sentence, the emotional significance is beyond what the modern reader can imagine.  Another young mother traveling alone with her children finds herself torn between saving her infant daughter is the ship's daycare room or her toddler son sleeping alone in the bunk of her cabin. In a panic, she hands her daughter off to a stranger; next time she sees the stranger, he is scrambling onto a lifeboat- alone! The reader can only imagine the mother's grief and pain in those last moments before the ship goes under.  I found myself gripping the book tightly, hanging onto each word, reliving the horrors of those passengers and their last moments.  AT times I was reminded by the cinematic version of the Titanic- the scramble to get to lifeboats and lifejackets, the panic and the separation of families and parents from their children. Larsen is a talented writer that handles the facts as well as drama in this world changing event.  The sinking of the Lusitania- a bit of history that may occupy only a few lines to a few paragraphs in a history book, is retold moment by moment in extraordinary detail, in this 359 page book.  A number of references are included in the end as well as an index for those students and historians that may wish to use this book as a source in a research paper.  This is a must have for any WW1 or history enthusiast. As a blogger I received a copy of this book published by Crown publishers for the purpose of writing this review.

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