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18 March 2016

Book Review: Dead Wake

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the LusitaniaDead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I don't know why I read this. I have never watched the blockbuster film Titanic because I don't want to watch a story arc that I already know is going to be epically tragic. Why get attached to these people? They'll be dead in 90 minutes anyway.

Same thing applies here. I like Larson's style of making history personable. But, in this case, that was what made it less enjoyable for me. I kept hoping for a happier ending. Kept hoping that something would intervene and change history so all of those people could have lived.

However, it's a marvelously constructed book. Little insights about the world as it was peppered throughout; "Turner was a strong swimmer, at a time when most sailors still held the belief that there was no point in knowing how to swim, since it would only prolong your suffering."

Or "Another item, this out of Washington, reported President Wilson's unhappiness at the fact that critics continued to take him to task for allowing the film The Clansman, by D.W. Griffith, to be screened at the White House. It was May now; the screening had taken place February 18, with Wilson, his daughters, and members of the cabinet in attendance. Based on the novel The Clansman, by Thomas Dixon, which was subtitled An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan, the film described the purported evils of the Reconstruction era and painted the Klan as the heroic savior of newly oppressed white southerners. The film, or "photoplay," as it was called, had become a huge hit nationwide, though its critics, in particular the six-year-old National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, decried its content and held protests outside movie theaters, prompting Griffith to give the film a more palatable name, The Birth of a Nation.

This, along with some insight into President Wilson's courtship of Edith Galt and some fascinating information about Room 40, where the British intercepted and decoded German messages over the wireless, was extraordinarily readable.

As would the rest of the book have been were I not so disinclined to invest myself in the tragic ending.

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