Time for a Monday morning book review! I haven’t done one of these in a while, but I’m hoping to get back in the groove this year.
I remember the Lusitania from 10th grade World History class, and vaguely recall that it was the catalyst for the United States to finally enter World War I. But of course there’s more to it than that, and Erik Larson’s deep dive into the details of the sinking, as well as the political environment on all sides, is dense and fascinating. It took me quite a while to get into the narrative, and the mechanical specifics of nautical warfare could be a slog to read through, but the individual stories kept me going.
By the time the Lusitania was sinking, I was snatching up every spare moment I could to keep reading… and with a newborn, those moments could be few and far between. Naval war strategy is certainly a departure from my current daily life, but that’s probably part of the appeal. Although some aspects were more interesting than others, Larson looked at all angles and humanized them: from Woodrow Wilson’s love life, to individual passengers and their luggage, to the top-secret Room 40 that decoded encrypted German messages, to the German submarine commander who attacked the Lusitania, all of it led to the attack that ultimately sunk the Lusitania and killed over 1,000 passengers and crew.
It’s mind-boggling to think of the amount of research that goes into a book like this, and Larson does a seamless job of weaving it all together. I wouldn’t call this easy bedtime reading, but it was compelling and thorough, and the only book I’ll probably ever need to read about the Lusitania.
Side note: A couple summers ago, Erik Larson was on my very favorite episode of This American Life, and you can listen to it here: 559: Captain’s Log or just read the transcript here. In the prologue, Ira Glass and Erik Larson discuss the captain’s log of the German U-boat commander who sunk the Lusitania. Act 1 and 2 that follow are also fascinating, and it’s the only podcast episode I’ve ever listened to multiple times.
***I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.***The Amateur Librarian is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.