Dead Wake by Erik Larson

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Rate: 3/5


Medium: Audiobook


Overview (No Spoilers): As with most of the audiobooks I pick up, I try to keep the genre nonfiction as to hopefully expand my knowledge base as a whole. Therefore, upon finding Dead Wake I jumped at the topic due to my knowledge of World War I, especially the events leading the US into the fray being spotty at best. Dead Wake was my third book by Larson, and as in the previous nonfictions, Devil in the White City and In the Garden of Beasts, he does an extensive job thoroughly researching and subsequently organizing the massive amount of information in an engaging and captivating narrative, which transports the reader through time to the main event being detailed. The tragic tale of the final voyage and subsequent sinking of the British Lusitania by a German U20 submarine is told from in Dead Wake from the perspectives of the German submarine captain, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, and many of the passengers of the ill fated ship. In hindsight there were so many factors, e.g., fog, delays, vague transmissions from the British Admiralty, not running at full capacity, working against the ship and quite the opposite for the German U20 boat that it can be hard to fully wrap your mind around. The torpedo shot was in the Achilles’ heel of the ship causing many, many of the crewman that would have otherwise helped the passengers with the lifeboats to be instantly killed (due to a shift change occurring), and the ship sinking in a unfathomable 18 minutes. Hindering the rescue effort, was a hesitation by large ships to rush to the scene incase the submarine was still lurking in the depths to attack any would be rescuers. All of these factors lead to mass casualties with in the crew and the passengers. At this point of the book Larson has introduced so many of the passengers and their backgrounds in depth that the reader was given a glimpse of heartbreak at many real life, unique characters you’d come to care for met tragic deaths or suffered imaginably throughout their struggle to survive. Overall, Dead Wake, as with the other book I’ve read by Larson is well worth the read and transforms history, for the reader, into the engaging, unbelievable events that actually took place.


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