Dead Wake

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Erik Larson: Dead Wake Audio Book Summary

Once again, Erik Larson shows his expertise when it comes to narrative non-fiction through his book, Dead Wake. The book was released in 2015 and won the Book of the Year award by World Magazine in the History category. It was also selected as the Goodreads Choice Award for History and Biography during the same year. Amazon also listed Dead Wake in their top 10 bestselling books of 2015. It features the enthralling story of the Lusitania and the events that happened after its last crossing.

On May 1, 1915, the Lusitaniaóthen the fastest liner in serviceówas bound from New York to Liverpool. It carried a record number of infants and children. Surprisingly, most of the passengers were at ease despite the release of a German notice saying that those aboard Britain ships must travel at their own risk. The seas surrounding Britain was declared by Germany to be a war zone. But Captain William Thomas Turner believed that the Lusitania would be safe from any attacks, as no submarine could come close to its speed.

erik larson quoteFor a century, civilian ships have been kept safe from attacks. But Germany decided to change the rules of the war. A German submarine dubbed the U-20 was primed to attack the Lusitania. Its captain, Walter Schwieger, discovered that the luxury liner didnít come with any naval escort. Obliging to the new policy by the German government, he fired a torpedo into the hull of the ship. A second explosion was heard half a minute later. Within just 18 minutes, the Lusitania sank, killing almost 1,200 passengers.

The whole world turned against Germany, outraged by the fact that innocent civilians were killed. This became one of the reasons for America to enter the war in 1917. However, many questions linger regarding the fate of the Lusitania many years after it sank. Some say that it was led into a trap. The fact that it didnít come with militarily escort should have been a red flag. Even the cause of the second explosion remains unidentified. The British cruiser that was supposed to rescue the dying victims was also called back to port. Even the departure of Winston Churchill from Britain to France just a few days before the tragedy was greatly questioned.

The Germans also presented their argument. They reasoned that the Lusitania was often used by the British to transport troops and weapons from America to Britain. In fact, the ship carried innumerable war material on that fateful day. This was proven to be true during a marine archaeology expedition as divers were able to recover rounds of ammunition manufactured in America, which were presumed to be sent to Britain for military aid.

Erik Larson takes readers aboard the Lusitania and guides them through all the events that happened. He manages to depict vivid images of the tragedy without lingering too much on any single character. The timely release of the book makes it all the more special, as 2015 marks the centenary of the last crossing of the Lusitania.