Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Audiobook Review: Dead Wake

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania (2015)
Written by Erik Larson
Narrated by Scott Brick
Run Time: 13 hours, 4 minutes
Publisher: Random House Audio/Crown

Like two bullet trains on a collision course, the Lusitania sinking at the hands of the German U-boat U-20 is a gripping story.

While reading Erik Larson's excellent history of the Lusitania's sinking, Dead Wake, I often had a sense of dread. Like a retelling of other historical attacks such as Pearl Harbor, I read Larson's thriller of a book hoping something or someone would intervene, but knowing full-well that no intervention would come.

Larson is one of the best at writing narrative history and his eye for detail is ever-present in Dead Wake. Not only does Larson give full backgrounds of Lusitania captain William Turner and U-20 captain Walther Schwieger, but also many of the Lusitania's passengers. He explains the diplomatic tensions at the time and even delves into President Woodrow Wilson's search for companionship, which was happening simultaneously with Lusitania's voyage.

Larson's book is written on a big scale, stretching from the walls of the White House to inside the British Admiralty. And yet, it isn't overwhelming. One of my favorite aspects of the book was the descriptions of how passengers passed time while onboard, including poetry readings. Man, how times have changed.

Brick's narration provided a sure hand through the story, accentuating moments of tension without going over the top or sounding melodramatic. There are even sections in Brick's narration that manage to be very humorous, a respite from the white-knuckle tale. And when the attack comes, it is handled with grace by both Larson and Brick.

Rating: 5/5 stars. This was one of the most eagerly anticipated nonfiction books of the year and it didn't disappoint.

Below, Larson reads the prologue from Dead Wake during a Q and A with the Wall Street Journal. It sets up the story to unfold well and gives an idea of what is to come in the later pages.

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