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Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  678 ratings  ·  87 reviews
On May 7, 1915, toward the end of her 101st eastbound crossing, from New York to Liverpool, England, R.M.S. Lusitania-- pride of the Cunard Line and one of the greatest ocean liners afloat-- became the target of a terrifying new weapon and a casualty of a terrible new kind of war. Sunk off the southern coast of Ireland by a torpedo fired from the German submarine U-20, she ...more
Hardcover, 532 pages
Published May 1st 2002 by Walker Books
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really liked it Average rating 4.00  · 
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I first read this book five years ago. In honor of the upcoming centenary of the Lusitania's sinking, I reread it. Instead of redoing my review, or revising it, I've decided to annotate it in bold to reflect my second look, especially in light of the heavy WWI reading I've engaged in.

World War One is in many ways staggeringly complex to understand. It's a Balkan war gone bad, very bad. To get a feel for it, to understand the various ententes and alliances, you need to know a lot history. Teacher
Jan C
Oct 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wwi, disaster, water, 2016
This was fantastic. Preston follows the trail of both the Lusitania and the U-20, the submarine which attacked her on May 7, 1915. She also reviews the situation with all of the German agents in New York, there are many and they keep falling all over each other. One of my favorites is the one who left his briefcase, with all his documents, on the bus only for it to be picked up by a secret service agent who was following him. Some of them just struck me like they were the gang that couldn't shoo ...more
Mar 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kindle Singles obviously vary in quality, but many of them are extremely good indeed and this is one of them. The sinking of the Lusitania in WWI had enormous repercussions; helping bring the US into the war and inflaming popular opinion against German civilians and businesses. With war on land at a stalemate by late 1914, both England and Germany looked to their navy’s to help gain an advantage. In 1915, when Germany issued a declaration stating that the water surrounding Great Britain and Irel ...more
Aug 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ww1, history
I liked this a lot better than Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania and if you are like "Hrm...which one should I read to get the full scoop of the Lusitania?" and get tempted by the shininess of Erik Larson..resist and get this much more stodgy and boring looking one. There's no weird parallel romance going on--this book instead parallels the goings on of the Lusitania and the U-Boat stalking the coast of Ireland. There are literally oodles of photographs and maps and blueprints, heavi ...more
Jul 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wrecks, history-wwi
We Americans tend to forget WWI. There still isn't a memorial for it in DC yet, for instance. While the Lusitania may have gotten a bump from Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, Preston's book places the sinking into the narrative of WW I. In many ways, her book is better than Larson's, though she lacks his narrative style, which is engrossing. Preston presents a more complete picture. If you liked reading Larson, you might want to give this a try. ...more
Aug 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Without a doubt, this is one of the best history books I have ever read. The Lusitania was torpedoed by a German submarine in May of 1915, during World War I, off the coast of Ireland after sailing from New York, killing about 1200 passengers and crew, including 128 Americans, out of the nearly 2000 on board. The ship was completely underwater only 18 minutes after the torpedo struck.

Of course, I expected some background, details of the sinking, and some followup, but this book delivers so much
James Burns
Jul 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Over the past 100 years there have been three ships that have sunk to the bottom of the ocean floor, for which controversy over their sinkings still exist today. Two ocean liners, The Titanic, The Lusitania, and one battleship the Bismarck. In the cases of the Titanic and the Lusitania, The actions of their captains is still in question today. The Lusitania was sunk by a German U-boat on her way to England during WW I. WWI has been overshadowed by WWII and is unfairly over looked by historians a ...more
Carolyn Harris
Jun 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
An harrowing account of the last voyage and sinking of the Lusitania in 1915, filled with evocative details that bring the passengers to life. There is a newlywed couple departing on their honeymoon who still have confetti in the folds of their clothes, children in sailor dresses who want to help the crew paint the lifeboats and a talent contest for the passengers on the last evening of the voyage. The book is difficult to put down during the scenes concerning the sinking of the ship and the res ...more
Laura Edwards
May 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
A detailed, objective and thorough history of the sinking. Part One deals with the history of U-boats and the state of the world at the beginning of WWI which proved interesting to me, but may come off as a bit of a dry read to some. Persevere. The rest of the book is quite enthralling as Preston takes the reader aboard the Lusitania on her final voyage.

The only thing missing was a list of passengers, victims and survivors, at the end, a nice sort of memoriam I have in a book about the Titanic
Aug 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thought provoking.

Enjoyed this book. It was a quick, factual read. It walks the line well, it’s fact based reporting but not dry or boring. The summary at the end makes you think, while also mourning the possibilities of what the world could have been like without the loss of life on both sides of WW1.
Mar 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
Years ago I remember reading a National Geopgraphic magazine that told all about the Lusitania. Ever since I have meant to read up on the whole story. I came across this book while I was at the library, and I couldn't put it down for two weeks. It was so surprising to hear how this one event altered history forever. Reading about how the decisions people made days before the sinking of this ship eventually impacted the outcome of WWI was both frustrating and fascinating. I kept thinking of how t ...more
♥ Marlene♥
This was a very interesting book. I liked that the writer was able to provide us with details of the survivors but also that we got to know the people that died. So many. The way Britain, America and Germany played a role in all of this is also an eye opener.
I do not understand why there is always so much talk about The Titanic. To me this tragedy was even worse. All the babies that died, and the boats that they tried to pull to the sea but in the meantime crashing and killing people. It was not
Jan C
Mar 18, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wwi, disaster, water, 2015
Actually 3 1/2 stars.

Driving me back to read the book this was derived from, Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy. Want to get back and read the real deal.

She came out with this Kindle single around the time of the anniversary, I guess. She had "what ifs" in her Epilogue. I don't really like "what ifs" because there are just too many variables. If one event changes, 1,000 unforeseen other events also change.
Jan 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Although this book took me months to read, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I remember reading about the sinking if the Lusitania 30 years ago and was eager to read the whole story. What surprised me was that it sunk shortly after the Titanic but they ran into the same problems regarding the passengers not properly prepared as well as not using all the lifeboats. I highly recommend this book if you are a history buff.
Todd Stockslager
Jun 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
I was inspired to read this book after reading Max Alan Collins' "disaster mystery" novel The Lusitania Murders, and was rewarded by a well-written history of the mystery of the disaster. The author categorizes and clearly deflates the conspiracy theories with well-reasoned and -researched arguments phrased in well-written, engrossing, and entertaining prose. ...more
Dec 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ireland
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It covers not only the ship and her sinking, but the events leading to WWI, building submarines, and events following the sinking. Very well-researched and written, the book included information I had not read elsewhere.
Apr 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
‭Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy

‭This book is my introduction to Diana Preston and she has caught my attention with this heavy book of sorrows.

‭The majority of this book is written with life woven through it. Narratives of real people come alive on the page, with pictures and their personal stories as told by themselves and by others. Unlike other books about disasters such as this, it does not follow a check-list format, but rather takes on it’s own path and makes it about the people that were invo
Apr 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really good book about the sinking of the Lusitania.

It covers a lot of ground. The strategic and tactical advantage/disadvantages of Britain and Germany and the political will behind “unrestricted submarine warfare” was particularly interesting as was the “neutral” relationship between USA and Britain. I enjoyed reading about the politics of Wilson’s administration. Also, the weakness of the Kaiser was interesting. I had thought that the Kaiser was strong and decisive. The author portrays him
Antigone Walsh
Dec 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lessons Unlearned

This is an interesting and fairly neutral look at the sinking of the Lusitania. Unquestionably an act of horrific, uncalled for brutality, it pushed the US into a war that would change the course of history. The author raises important thinking points and revealed that the US neutrality may have been skewered by friendship with Britain. The usual cast of characters, governments, politicians and corporations exploited the tragedy while scrambling to place blame on anyone other th
Julie Means Kane
May 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This remarkable study of the sinking of the Lusitania effectively captures both the nervous gaiety of this massive ship's last voyage and the cold despair of her passengers in the waters of the Irish coast where so many met their end. In a parallel thread, author Diana Preston takes us into the cramped and musty submarine, U20, to meet her captain, Walther Schwieger, who ordered the torpedo attack.

Perhaps even more interesting to the student of the history of the Great War is Preston's analysis
Apr 17, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, nonfiction
The sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 by a German U-boat has been on my reading list for decades, inspired by a friend now long gone who introduced me to a number of fascinating topics including maritime adventures. This book certainly had me captivated early on and I was very comfortable with the format of various aspects of the time, such as the political scene of World War I and the history of submarines.

For sheer horror, the accounts of the travelers as the ship sank and the aftermath were th
Alenka of Bohemia
Oct 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, ww1
This is the second book on Lusitania I have read and I suspect will be the last. The story of the sinking and the aftermath is just so depressing - and makes you in comparison realize what an organized and fairly "glamorous" the sinking of the Titanic was. Just the length (Titanic 2 hours, Lusitania 20 minutes) gives you an idea. (Naturally both the tragedies were equally as painful and I am not saying one was worse than the other when it comes to loss of life). Diana Preston gives a lot of info ...more
Charlie Zizza
Sep 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
In-depth and interesting history of the Lusitania and her sinking. I have not yet read Dead Wake by Erik Larson, but I have a feeling that this is more historical and presents less of a narrative than Dead Wake. I would recommend this book on Lusitania for those who are more interested in the ship herself and the history. There is some very good technical information at the end of the book.
Jun 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Excellent source of information about WWI , U-boats and the significance of this large passenger vessel. Story of individuals on board as well.
Jun 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Extensive account of the Lusitania's last voyage, the birth and development of submarine warfare, and the interplay between the neutral US and the war-torn Allies and Germans. A really nice read. ...more
Jan 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Although I "got into" the story more with the personal stories of the passengers vs. the more technical aspects, the entire book was captivating and very educational to me. ...more
Michael Nichols
Very well research and written history of an horrendous event.
Rudy Seifert
Dec 05, 2020 rated it liked it
Too much information to be enjoyable reading
Reveiws by Dwight
May 21, 2021 rated it really liked it
Will keep you reading until the late hours.
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Born and raised in London, Diana Preston studied Modern History at Oxford University, where she first became involved in journalism. After earning her degree, she became a freelance writer of feature and travel articles for national UK newspapers and magazines and has subsequently reviewed books for a number of publications, including The Wall Street Journal and The Los Angeles Times. She has also

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