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Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

4.06  ·  Rating Details ·  64,390 Ratings  ·  7,877 Reviews
#1 New York Times Bestseller

From thebestselling 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 passeng
Hardcover, 430 pages
Published March 10th 2015 by Crown (first published March 3rd 2015)
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Marilee Yes… I'm about a third of the way through and it's absolutely enthralling. Larson has a rare talent for researching historical facts, digesting them…moreYes… I'm about a third of the way through and it's absolutely enthralling. Larson has a rare talent for researching historical facts, digesting them and then constructing a narrative that reads like a novel. He's focused on key characters, using various sources to bring them to life… and suspense is building, even though we history buffs know the basic facts… it's playing out in suspenseful fashion as the Lusitania prepares to sail from New York to the UK on May 1915. Not at all one sided, we are also introduced to the German U boat service and it's men. (less)
Dot It is the same questionable policy, a chess game with real lives.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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May 31, 2016 Jill rated it it was amazing
When a new Erik Larson arrives, I drop everything and read it. In my book, he’s one of the few authors who can make history positively come alive. And his opening note held forth a big promise: “I give you now the saga of the Lusitania and the myriad forces, large and achingly small, that converged one lovely day in May 1915 to produce a tragedy of monumental scale, whose true character and import have long been obscured in the mists of history.”

My first thought was: “WHAT true character and imp
Will Byrnes
Dead Wake is named a 2015 notable non fiction book by the Washington Post

The track lingered on the surface like a long pale scar. In maritime vernacular, the trail of fading disturbance, whether from ship or torpedo, was called a “dead wake.”
On May 7, 1914, only a few years after that most famous of ocean-liners had had an unfortunate encounter with an iceberg on its maiden voyage, RMS Lusitania, popularly referred to as “Lucy,” having already crossed the Atlantic dozens of times, this time
Diane S ☔
Nov 08, 2015 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it
Larson writes wonderful narrative non fiction, and in this book he has surpassed his own self. The amount of research that went into this book is staggering. It doesn't just cover the bombing of the Lusitania, it covers everything going once at the time and more.

What it is like inside a submarine, the roles of the crew members, how it feels and even how it smells. president Wilson's grief at the death of his wife and his courting of his second wife. The career of the Captain of the Lusitania and
Apr 26, 2016 Matt rated it it was amazing
When I came across a radio interview with Erik Larson, talking about his new Lusitania book, Dead Wake, I knew I had to have it. I was excited. Like, I’m going to buy this on my phone as soon as I park my car excited.

As many of you know, I’m deep into a World War I reading project. I’ve collected so many new titles that my kids are never going to college. The Lusitania sinking was a moral turning point in the war. It turned American opinion inexorably against Germany. It also sowed no small amo
Jan 14, 2016 Kemper rated it liked it
This reminded me a lot of the movie Titantic not just because it’s about a disaster at sea, but also it would have been a lot shorter and better without the romantic subplot. Only in this case it was U.S. President Woodrow Wilson and Edith Bolling Galt instead of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. Although I gotta admit that the scene when ole Woody sketched Edith in the nude was pretty hot…..

Wait. I might have mixed something up there.

This is part of the continuing trend of Erik Larson’s books
Mar 26, 2015 Dem rated it really liked it
Shelves: war

"The Devil is in the detail" and Erik Larson's Dead wake : The last crossing of the Lusitania is certainly packed full of detail but details that for me made this book such a worthwhile read. Living in Ireland I thought I was informed through history classes in school of the events surrounding the sinking of the Lusitania off the cost of Kinsale Head in Co. Cork however I was surprised by the information I gained by reading Dead Wake. Published to coincide with the 100th Anniversary in May of
Feb 21, 2016 Mona rated it liked it
Excellent Retelling of the Sinking of the Lusitania

I don't read a lot of nonfiction.

But Erik Larson's books read like novels.

He's an excellent writer. He choses historical events that contain a compelling story. He fills the books with details that bring the time, place, and people to life. He does an enormous amount of research.

I loved Larson's The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, a story about the Chicago world's fair and the convergence of
4 stars. Great book on the sinking of the Lusitania which brings people and events alive!

I am going to keep this short, as over 6,600 others have reviewed this fabulous work on GR!

May 7, 1915 - The Lusitania was torpedoed off the coast of Ireland by a German submarine. It sank in 18 minutes. Of the known 1,960 people on board, 767 survived and 1,193 perished.

The Lusitania was carrying a large number of Americans (including women and children). The sinking of the Lusitania and resulting
Jeffrey Keeten
Dec 15, 2015 Jeffrey Keeten rated it really liked it
”He saw the body of the torpedo moving well ahead of the wake, through water he described as being ‘a beautiful green.’ The torpedo ‘was covered with a silvery phosphorescence, you might term it, which was caused by the air escaping from the motors.’

He said, ‘It was a beautiful sight.’”

 photo Lusitania_zpsytucrr7b.jpg
The last known photo of the Lusitania.

The term unsinkable had been obliterated from references regarding great ocean liners after the Titanic sunk in 1912. The impossible had already happened. In 1915 the Lusitan
Feb 23, 2016 Elyse rated it it was amazing
This is an all-embracing historical heartbreak story....a tragedy that could have been
avoided. The seas were a war zone ..

Right from the start, we learn that their were delays leaving New York...( America was not yet at war yet in May, 1915, against Germany).
Red flag warnings were everywhere. They were suppose to run the ship on 4 engines, but got by with 3.
The German government warned Americans that traveling on trans-Atlantic wasn't safe.
Other safety conditions like respect for fog
Stuffed with details. Are there too many?

I continue.


I feel guilty giving this book only three stars, but that reflects my honest reaction. It is interesting. It is accurate. It is extensively researched. It is about an event, the torpedo sinking of the British steamship passenger liner, the Lusitania, in 1915 by a German submarine. The death toll came to 1,198 persons, including passengers, crew and 3 German stowaways. There were 1,962 on board. Only 764

The Hook - Many years ago I read A Night to Remember by Walter Lord about the tragic sinking of the unsinkable Titanic. After this I’m certain I read a book about the Lusitania though for the life of me I can’t remember if it was fiction or not. When I heard that one of my favorite authors, Eric Larson was going to cover this subject in Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania I was in. My sincere thanks to the publisher, Crown, for trusting me with an e-galley of the pre-published work.

Nov 05, 2015 Carol rated it really liked it
Informative: My first Erik Larson novel turned out to be quite the educational experience beginning with the significance of the title DEAD WAKE.....the disturbance (or track) a torpedo leaves behind on the water in route to its destination....and, I also now know that of the Lusitania's 1,959 passengers and crew on board May 7, 1915, (nearly 100 years ago) only 764 survived...600 were never found and 123 American's were among the dead. (three German stowaways also perished)

Interesting: Larson's

Jul 06, 2016 Kelli rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2016-not-fiction
Everybody loved this but me! I'm flashing back to The Martian. I found this extremely boring and painful. A tragic story and very well-researched, but this one did what no other book before it has actually put me to sleep. I fell asleep while reading. Enough said. Zzzzzz. 2 stars.
“As I began reading into the subject, and digging into archives in America and Britain, I found myself intrigued . . . In short, I was hooked.”

Most everything I knew about the Lusitania/WWI (gleaned from public school and collegian textbooks) has turned out to be watered down half-truths, at best. After reading “Dead Wake” I could almost hear Paul Harvey saying, with a nod of approval: “Now you know the rest of the story.”

“Dead Wake,” is phenomenally superb! It’s captivating, insightful, atmos
From looking around at the ratings on Goodreads, I'd gotten the impression that Erik Larson's histories are excellent and read like novels. So I was bit disappointed at just how average and tedious I found a lot of his narrative about the final voyage of the Lusitania. As with James Cameron's Titanic, it didn't really get interesting until the boat started to sink.

I guess there's a fine line between context and filler, and Larson tended to err on the latter. All in the interest of "setting the s
Jan 14, 2017 Jason rated it really liked it
Book 1 for 2016.

Erik Larson strikes again only this time with the speed and grace of a scythe. Tackling a not that well-known maritime incident, he takes us right into the cauldron of this major event of both United States and World History albeit looking at it from a myriad of different viewpoints in a sort of Rashomon-type retelling of the sinking of the Lusitania, the impetus for America's belated entry into the Great War.

Taking place just three years after that other "night to remember" when
Driving back from a vacation to Tampa Bay followed by having to mow my lawn after 10 days away allowed me to finish this 13 hour audiobook in about 24 hours.

Also, it is a Scott Brick audio which is a huge bonus!

Larson does it again with an intriguing look into a major event in history. It is well researched and he does a great job integrating other anecdotes of the time to create a picture of America before they joined WWI and the antagonism between England and Germany early on during the war.

Nov 21, 2014 Janis rated it it was amazing
I couldn’t put down Dead Wake, Larson’s gripping narrative of the 1915 sinking of the Lusitania. The story shifts from aboard the great ship to the U-boat that would destroy it, to London’s admiralty offices and Wilson’s White House – providing details political and personal while the tension builds. It’s a fascinating account of this tragic event. I read an advance copy; pub date is in March 2015.
Lisa Vegan
The spoilers below really are spoilers, so don’t read them if you haven’t read the book but think that you might someday read it and you dislike spoilers.

I was interested in the topic (for decades I’ve been interested in the Titanic) and knew I’d previously enjoyed books by this author so I was excited to read the book as an informal buddy read in my favorite Goodreads group. I wasn’t disappointed. I could have assigned this book 5 stars, or maybe even 3, so I went with 4 stars.

I love this aut
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I've kind of missed the boat so far (har harrrr, oh come on, I couldn't resist) but this is the first book I've read by Erik Larson. And I only ended up reading it because it is the final pick of the season for my in-person book club. I put it off for a while but ended up breezing through, using the approach I take with most histories - read the bits carefully that I'm interested in and skim those I am not.

Those I am not:
-transcripts of military commands
-Woodrow Wilson's depression and dating
Elizabeth (Alaska)
I have sometimes found reading non-fiction to be a chore, even when I'm very interested in the subject. Reading Erik Larson is a pleasure. He has the ability to tell his story in a very smooth style - almost fiction-like - and he gave me a good understanding of the time period. There is plenty of detail, but I never felt it was in the least tedious.

First we see the passengers preparing to board Lusitania in New York, where the departure was an event for both passengers and shore bound - even tho
Unlike this author's The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, which I LOVED, I found that this volume went on a little too long for my tastes. I enjoyed the parts about the various passengers and the actual sinking the best. I got a bit bogged down in the submarine and political parts, even though those portions shed some light on how such a thing could occur. I'm glad I read it, but I don't see it ever being a candidate for a re-read.
Tom Mathews
Sep 19, 2015 Tom Mathews rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: lovers of history
Once in a while I hear from readers who claim they do not like to read nonfiction. Often they claim that it is boring to read a story when you already know what will happen. Where is the suspense?

With his latest work, Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, Erik Larson has proven that he is one of those few talented authors who can tell such a story, a story of tragedy and loss, and do it in such a way that for a few seconds the reader almost believes that it might end differently. His na
Holly Weiss
Jan 11, 2016 Holly Weiss rated it it was amazing
Erik Larson is a master of narrative historical nonfiction. His new release, Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, is slated to release March 2015 coinciding with the anniversary of the tragic sinking of the ship. The book examines the curious circumstances surrounding the luxury ocean liner’s fate.

In the middle of World War I, the Lusitania, a British luxury ocean liner made its ill-fated voyage from New York City to waters near Ireland in 1915 despite warnings about German interferenc
May 05, 2015 happy rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-ww-i
I found Mr. Larson’s latest book a very readable look at one of the seminal events of the First World War. In telling the story of the sinking of the Cunard Liner Lusitania, the author tells the story from many viewpoints, from the bridge of both the Lusitania herself and the U boat that fired the fatal torpedo, to various passengers and crew and even the British Admiralty and Washington DC. Mr. Larson even looks at the attitudes of the President Wilson and what he was preoccupied with at the ti ...more
Otis Chandler
Dec 14, 2016 Otis Chandler rated it really liked it
Recommended to Otis by: Eric Franklin
Another hard to put down nonfiction book from Erik Larson. I really enjoyed this book - mostly to learn more about submarine warfare in WWI, but also to learn about the history of the time. How America entered the war, the importance of shipping to England, the ruthlessness and autonomy of German u-boat commanders. Larson also did a great job of layering in interesting historical info (though he overdid it too a little bit).

One of the dramas of the story of the Lusitania that Larson focuses on i
May 07, 2015 Mike rated it really liked it
In Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, Erik Larson accomplishes a rare feat, a suspenseful non-fiction history book. We all know what is to happen, Lusitania is sunk (sorry to spoil it for you). Larson leads us through a day-by-day account of the hunter, Unterseeboot-20, and the prey. There are so many potential alternative branches that would have negated the rendezvous and you find yourself wishing either Captain would take one. Alas, over 1,000 people will die off the coast of Irel ...more
Bob Milne
Feb 25, 2015 Bob Milne rated it it was amazing
Shelves: submarines
There are some authors who, despite your best intentions, seem to linger upon the to-be-read shelf forever. For me, Erik Larson is one of those authors - I've had a trade paperback edition of The Devil in the White City sitting on that fateful shelf for far too many years now. When I came across the ARC of Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, I knew this would finally be our chance to connect, especially given my fascination with shipwrecks and submarines.

This is a lengthy, detailed, i
Nov 26, 2015 ☮Karen rated it really liked it
Read anything by Erik Larson, and you know that he wants to not only give you a balanced, detailed historical account from many perspectives, but he wants to make it fascinating for the reader by recountingthe true experiences of the people who were there. From President Wilson to the ship captains down to the children on board, we learn their stories. Larson has a formulafor writing these books, and itworks. Here, for me at least, once I was past page 100, I was hooked--waiting for the German U ...more
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Erik Larson, author of the international bestseller Isaac's Storm, was nominated for a National Book Award for The Devil in the White City, which also won an Edgar Award for fact-crime writing. His latest book, In the Garden of Beasts: Love Terror and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin, has been acquired for publication in 20 countries and optioned by Tom Hanks for a feature film. Erik is a for ...more
More about Erik Larson...

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“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.” 12 likes
“Man plans, God laughs.” 7 likes
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