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Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  116,589 ratings  ·  11,629 reviews
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author and master of narrative nonfiction comes the enthralling story of the sinking of the Lusitania

On May 1, 1915, 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 anxious. Germany had declared the s
Hardcover, First Edition, 430 pages
Published March 3rd 2015 by Crown Publishers
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Deb History is trivia. The little details are what remind us that real people lived and breathed and experienced the story we are being told. The trivia o…moreHistory is trivia. The little details are what remind us that real people lived and breathed and experienced the story we are being told. The trivia of human lives is what makes history, for me, worth reading.(less)
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 a…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)

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Jan 18, 2015 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
Jeffrey Keeten
Nov 19, 2015 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 Lusi
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 tim
Dec 01, 2015 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
Diane S ☔
Oct 27, 2014 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 07, 2015 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
Mar 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: recommended, 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
Mar 23, 2015 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
Elyse  Walters
Dec 08, 2014 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
Justin Tate
Sep 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Not enthralling for me personally, but otherwise excellently done. This is a supremely well-researched account of the life and times of the early 1900s, WWI, and, of course, the sinking of the Lusitania. Going in, my knowledge of the Lusitania was sadly little. Being educated in such a significant historic event is the clear benefit of this book. Unlike some historical accounts, however, the narrative struggles to captivate in any meaningful way outside of all the interesting facts. More textboo ...more
Feb 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"I am afraid a more serious breach may at any time occur, for they seem to have no regard for the consequences."

When it comes to writing historical narratives Erik Larson is one of the best in the business. He is so good at using a pivotal event/moment in history as a point to begin examining the age in which it occurred. His books are always about the era through the lens of one event. “Dead Wake” proves to be no exception.
Some strengths of the book include Part II of the text when Larson write
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
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.

Sep 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Matt by: Rae
Shelves: audiobook, buddy-read
Erik Larson offers up another of his dazzling pieces of nonfiction, taking the reader into the middle of an infamous event and hashing out some of the details that make it come alive. Larson's attention to detail and desire to share the nuances of the events that led to the Lusitania's sinking makes this a must-read book for all who have a passion for history of the time. The Lusitania was a well-known British passenger ship that had made the voyage across the Atlantic on numerous occasions. As ...more
Aug 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating book about the sinking of the Lusitania, the British ocean liner that was torpedoed by a German submarine in May 1915. Nearly 1,200 people died, including 128 Americans. I didn't know much about the Lusitania before I read this book, but I should have because it was one of the critical events that pushed America to enter World War I.

What Erik Larson does well is to put the Lusitania event in the context of history: the reader gets a good sense of what was happening in the w
Oct 27, 2014 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


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.

Jan 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wrenching and riveting. I'm a big fan of Erik Larson, and he is seriously on top of his game with "Dead Wake." His analysis of all the elements that had to conspire for the ship to sink is at once poignant and smart. ...more
Jan 15, 2016 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
Apr 19, 2015 rated it it was ok
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. ...more
Jill Hutchinson
Jun 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Larson has really delivered on this book which is his latest. I have read all of his works and his style appeals to me. In this book, the subject appeals to me as well since it gets less attention than the sinking of the Titanic but has much more historic significance.

Europe was caught up in the horror of WWI but the US was remaining isolated and neutral. The Lusitania, carrying 189 American passengers in her total count of 2,000 souls aboard, was the largest and fastest of the Cunard Line luxu
Mar 12, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: ebook
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
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
Mar 05, 2015 rated it it was ok

This book is a dry history lesson ... BORING! I trusted but did not verify the extraordinarily high GR ratings for this book, assuming such high ratings were indicative of a captivating, perhaps historically fictional look at this tragic oceanic event. Nope … straight history. Why such high ratings? What am I missing?

I must be on a different wavelength (a different planet perhaps???) … folks rave about The Martian by Andy Weir and I thought it was a snooze-fest. Readers pile the praise
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
Nov 21, 2014 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  (not getting friends updates) 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
Tom Mathews
Apr 12, 2015 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
Jan 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Erik Larson makes history come alive once again. I'd known nothing about this subject, except having the misconception that the sinking of the Lusitania had immediately forced the US into WWI.

One would think that when reviewing a history book, there would be no risk of spoilers, and yet--there are some surprising and shocking facts here that I will not give away. Larson's research is
intense and encompassing, and he packages and delivers this fascinating account in a very readable form.

Larson br
The RMS Lusitania was torpedoed by a German U-boat on May 7, 1915 just off the coast of Ireland. The ship sank in less than 20 minutes, killing nearly 1,200 people. Many decried the attack on a passenger ship. But German military leaders said the attack was justified because the ship was carrying munitions for use by the British military. It would be decades before it was proven that Germany was correct....the passenger ship was indeed carrying munitions for use in World War I.

Dead Wake not onl
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Erik Larson’s latest work of narrative nonfiction is DEAD WAKE: THE LAST CROSSING OF THE LUSITANIA, which became an immediate New York Times bestseller. His saga of the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY, was a finalist for the National Book Award, and won an Edgar Award for fact-crime writing, and lingered on various NYT best-seller lists for the better part of a decade. Hu ...more

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There is nothing like reading a history or biography book and being so completely transported to another time and place that you find...
73 likes · 25 comments
“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.” 20 likes
“Man plans, God laughs.” 10 likes
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