Dead Wake Book Review

Title: Dead Wake
Author: Erik Larson
Genre: Nonfiction, History
Published: 2015
Pages: 353
Goodreads Rating: 4.07
Rating: 4/10

“The track lingered on the surface like a long pale scar. In maritime vernacular, this trail of fading disturbance, whether from ship or torpedo, was called a ‘dead wake’.”

Follow the tragic and fascinating story of the Lusitania in Larson’s book, Dead Wake. The author puts a face on the tragedy as he introduces you to passengers and crew members aboard the ill-fated ship. Learn about the months leading up to the moment of impact and discover the unfortunate situation resulting in the avoidable and needless sinking of the Lusitania that killed 1,198 innocent individuals.

Piques your curiosity 
Because of Dead Wake, I learned intriguing things about WWI. Larson introduced me to Room 40 – a highly confidential British intelligence organization that intercepted and translated German messages including the infamous Zimmerman Telegram. He also examined President Woodrow Wilson including his love life that ultimately distracted him from the greater issues of his time. I became fascinated with different aspects of WWI and I know I’ll pick up more books in the future to continue my education into these subjects.  

Cultivates emotional attachment 
1,198 people died when the Lusitania was hit and sank in under 20 minutes. Approximately 760 people survived. Larson brings some of their stories to life in Dead Wake. Instead of thinking of the number of people impacted, you can now picture faces in your mind and you know their stories. 

In Dead Wake, Larson covers the day-to-day life on the ship and on the submarines. It becomes repetitive and monotonous as he walks us through the humdrum of daily interactions. The desire to create an emotional connection to the passengers did not necessitate the number of pages spent talking about meals, games, chores, and conversations. 

Poor use of pages 
Related to the repetitiveness of the book, I felt Larson could have used the 353 pages in a better way. Personally, I wish the author had spent more time covering the fascinating parts of the story including Room 40, how the Lusitania sank in such a short amount of time, the trials and tribulations that occurred after the sinking, and what happened once the United States joined the war. 

While I recommend Erik Larson as an author, I don’t think I recommend reading Dead Wake. I think you could find a better book that covers the Lusitania sinking and WWI. Personally, I’ll be looking for other WWI books. 

Published by Caroline

Avid reader, board gamer, yogi, and photographer.

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