Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania – by Erik Larson – independent book review – Non-fiction

Exceptionally well-researched. But segments of this book are downright dull. Which was hard for me to fathom as I waded through, given the subject matter. Awarded three stars on Goodreads.

deadwakeLet me explain that I am a fan of Erik Larson and loved both the Devil in the White City and In the Garden of Beasts. And I am extremely interested in both World War I and the story of the 1915 sinking of the Lusitania. So you can imagine how excited I was to get my hands on this book.

But in this non-fiction account, Larson seemed to get lost in his own research and unable to judiciously limit which details he included. (Just wait until you see the footnote list in the back, which accounts for about 25% of the pages in the book!) Details about individual passengers on the Lusitania’s last voyage, what they ate, who met whom, and notes they wrote — it simply weighed down the first half of the book. To the point where I found myself starting to skim.

Erik Larson

Once Larson gets to the point where the ship is actually torpedoed, the narrative naturally became completely absorbing. The stories from survivors, the shameful lack of rescue efforts, and the political finger-pointing that followed made the last third of the book fascinating. But taken as a whole, it’s not nearly as engrossing as the other Larson books I read.

More about Erik Larson.

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