Erik Larson is one of the modern masters of popular narrative nonfiction. He is the author of five bestselling operas, such as The Devil in the White City (2003) and Dead Wake : The last crossing of the Lusitania, the latter being the subject of this review. Mr. Larson’s research skills and capacity to keep the reader’s attention make his stories humbling, like the ones an old and wise grandfather tells his nephews near the fireplace. Pairing him, a resourceful nonfiction writer with a haunting story such as that of the Lusitania would surely provide a great book.
Putting it very simple, the story is about the Germans sinking a British ship. But history is never so simple, is it? This took place in the 10th month of the Second World War. While German U-boats were terrorizing the North Atlantic Ocean, Lusitania, the quickest transatlantic the world had at that time, departed for Liverpool from New York City on what will be its last journey across the vast ocean.
The captain of the ship, Mr. William Thomas Turner, had great faith in the concept of honor. He was sure that war was still a gentlemanly issue and the Germans won’t commit the atrocity of attacking a vessel full of women and children. Little did he know, the Nazis were determined to change the rules of the game and nothing would stand in their way towards the conquest of Europe.
In a truly thrilling story, Erik Larson switches from narrating using the hunter’s point of view to that of the hunted. He vividly portrays the emotions and hopes of the passengers of Lusitania as well as the cold, metallic willpower of the German soldiers. The characters of the book are nothing short of spectacular and their journey from ordinary passengers to historic figures is eloquently portrayed by the talented author.
Dead Wake: The last crossing of the Lusitania is one of the stories of history we all think we know, but it takes an author of immense talent to show us how little we understood from it. It is a book that clearly shows that when a great story meets a great storyteller, the world will receive a reading experience that will forever have a place in its memory.