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Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

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Scott Brick

13 Hours 5 Minutes

Random House (Audio)

March 2015

Audio Book Summary

#1 New York Times Bestseller

From the bestselling author and master of narrative nonfiction comes the enthralling story of the sinking of the Lusitania

On May 1, 1915, with WWI entering its tenth month, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were surprisingly at ease, even though Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone. For months, German U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the era’s great transatlantic “Greyhounds”—the fastest liner then in service—and her captain, William Thomas Turner, placed tremendous faith in the gentlemanly strictures of warfare that for a century had kept civilian ships safe from attack. 

Germany, however, was determined to change the rules of the game, and Walther Schwieger, the captain of Unterseeboot-20, was happy to oblige. Meanwhile, an ultra-secret British intelligence unit tracked Schwieger’s U-boat, but told no one. As U-20 and the Lusitania made their way toward Liverpool, an array of forces both grand and achingly small—hubris, a chance fog, a closely guarded secret, and more—all converged to produce one of the great disasters of history.

It is a story that many of us think we know but don’t, and Erik Larson tells it thrillingly, switching between hunter and hunted while painting a larger portrait of America at the height of the Progressive Era. Full of glamour and suspense, Dead Wake brings to life a cast of evocative characters, from famed Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat to pioneering female architect Theodate Pope to President Woodrow Wilson, a man lost to grief, dreading the widening war but also captivated by the prospect of new love. 

Gripping and important, Dead Wake captures the sheer drama and emotional power of a disaster whose intimate details and true meaning have long been obscured by history.

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  • Jason B.


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  • Kenneth D.

    Typical Erik Larsen book, well researched, well written, and plenty of minutia to bring in the personal side to the story. I wish the narrator would be more animated. There are a lot of facts that coe our way after time has passed that can make a reader get mad at politicians. Overall, I enjoyed the book a lot!

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  • Anonymous

    Great o loved poy

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  • Terence K

    I enjoyed the book very much. Once again Erik Larson really does outstanding research and is able to bring out interesting facts about the event and backstories about the people who were involved. The only advisory is that he provides so much information, and includes a lot of the passengers, that it may almost be too much information. I definitely enjoyed the book and learned ALOT about a subject that I had known very little.

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  • Anonymous

    The author does it again. I like when history is told as a story. I fought like I was watching the actual event. Was made to feel the loss of all that were involved. The people were shown not as back drops to a story but where they should be as the center piece.

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  • Susan Everett

    I love Erik Larson\'s ability to transport a reader to a time and place. The narrator is also outstanding, it was a great book.

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  • Kristyn Martin

    Very good and interesting, especially if you enjoy history and its lessons.

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  • Stephen Dewey

    It was hard to tear myself away when life required it. The narration is top notch and transparently brings the material to listener. The central theme of the account of the boat and it's passengers is seamlessly blended into the broader panorama of the prevailing political backdrop, the start of the First World War. We learn of the dynamics at work both from an American and European perspective. As if that weren't enough, we get a vivid glimpse into the social conventions and ways of life of the time through accounts of the experiences of various individuals, some of note and others of less imposing social importance. I am a little worried that this book may have set too high of a bar !

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  • Christopher Zott

    Captivating. Especially the details of the torpedo attack. The last 4 hours or so were very hard to stop listening to. Scott Brick's emphasis on certain words was spine chilling. Excellent.

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  • teresa desiderati

    love the story llaid out by Larson.......try to make extra time to listen to more...captivating way to describe a great loss.....narration was spot on loved the book...will listen to this one again and again

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