I liked this Documentary CD. It was comprehensive and informative. Upon departing New York City on May 1, 1915, the Lusitania was a testament to man’s ingenuity, power, and hubris. The pride of the Cunard Line, she was a monster of the oceans: fast, sleek, and luxurious. In 1915, World War I was raging in Europe and Germany had publicly warned that all merchant traffic to Europe would now be considered war material and subject to being taken as a prize or sunk. German diplomats even took out an ad in the New York Times warning Lusitania’s passengers and crew. Yet few passengers heeded the Kaiser’s caveat. Most believed that no nation would deliberately sink an ocean liner filled with innocent women and children, that the Lusitania was far too fast to be a viable submarine target and (falsely) that England would use her Navy to protect the ship. Passengers believed that the Lusitania was so huge and with all boilers lit, so fast as to make her unsinkable. Yet unknown to almost everyone, Captain Turner of the Lusitania was ordered by Cunard executives to light only three of her four boilers to save money. This decreased speed made her an easier submarine target. Following the Titanic disaster only three years earlier, maritime law required passenger liners to use as many lifeboats as necessary, giving passengers a false sense of security. Almost no one considered the possibility that a ship of that size could sink in minutes after being hit by only one torpedo or that her swift starboard list would make it nearly impossible to launch most of the lifeboats. Almost everyone believed that England would use her battleships and destroyers to protect large passenger ships in the “war zone.” In reality, the Royal Navy feared losing critical warships to German submarines more than they felt it necessary to protect commercial passenger ships that carried no troops. The leader of the Royal Navy, Winston Churchill, therefore decided to leave the Lusitania unprotected. Documents show that he secretly desired a German attack so that the event would prompt America to enter the war. Dead Wake is a masterfully researched, engrossing, and evocative book from all perspectives. Larson provides numerous layers of hidden information, including intimate details of President Wilson’s private life that influenced his decision-making. We learn about intelligence secrets of the English Admiralty, leading to the interception and decoding of communication between the German submarine U-20 and her base; yet that information was retained from those whose intervention might have prevented the catastrophe. We witness the fateful decision of Lusitania’s captain to delay entry into the “war zone” and to zig-zag directly into the path of the U-20. And we learn a great deal about the cunning and ruthless German submarine captain. Finally, we learn that the Royal Navy blamed Captain Turner of the Lusitania, even though they knew that he had been innocent and that the information they had deliberately withheld from him and Cunard could have been used to save his ship.
Enjoyed this book immensely. Learned a great deal. The author builds suspense very skillfully. I ended up feeling like the priceless Dickens manuscript was a character, as though it were a passenger! I agree with the reviewer who said that all the sections on US President Wilson's love life were annoying and off-topic. Historians will delve more deeply into the political calculations and management of the war. But for a non-specialist, this book painted a vivid, complex and moving picture.
I liked the narrator - just the right pace and right level of carefully controlled emotion.
Fascinating story. I like the way the same story is told many times from different points of view. Way more detail than I wanted in several cases. I don't care what everybody had for lunch. Not my favorite reader, but I liked him better for this book than I usually do.
Wonderful read, I skipped the audio due to my dislike of the narrator.
Bibliokrisp's summary is "spot on." As usual Larson does a masterful job of weaving multiple stories until they finally come together. And I found the narrator well suited to the story.
The book is fantastic and difficult to put down. The narration is a bit spotty--the French accents weren't consistent and the Americans always sounded like they were from Texas and were ignorant. Shame on the narrator's prejudices--I expect more subtle/expert narration with Erik Larsen's books. Listen to "In the Garden of the Beasts" for another great book and much better narration.
This book is primarily about the sinking of the Lusitania but the author brings in information about shipping in 1915, the captain of the Lusitania, the code-breaking of Room 40 (British Naval Intelligence), President Wilson's personal life, details about U-Boats, and more. This is the 1st WW1 book I've read that gave me a clear picture of this time and how the US got into the war. Larson also does a superior job telling the stories of many Lusitania passengers, making them memorable and taking the reader into that person's experience as the Lusitania sank (only 18 minutes from the time the German torpedo struck). If you enjoy history, this is worth your time.
If you enjoy history and life recounted during that time, you will love the details; they add to the charm. We enjoyed the narration. Sad when the CD's were completed. Top marks.
I listened to the audio book, and I didn't like the narrator, so that colours my review, but OMG!! - the minutia! Detailing the colour and pattern of someone's socks, the contents on a suitcase, the number of plants in the dinning room, and how many cigars a person brought on board! Would have been far more interesting - an shorter - if the author would have cut out the extraneous details. 11 CDs, but the ship isn't even torpedoed until disc 9.
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