I’m a new-er fan of Erik Larson. I read Devil in the White City only last year (or last last year?) which makes me unique in these parts, these parts being the Chicagoland area. That book details the creation of the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, as well as the horrific serial killings by H.H. Holmes during that time period, and it is compelling. It’s pretty much required reading here, much like (shudder) Kate Chopin’s The Awakening in Louisiana which I read, I dunno, 5 times? Such ennui, such sloooog. I would have much rather been reading about serial killers. But I digress. As this has nothing to do with Dead Wake, other then Larson rules and it’s great.
So. Dead Wake. I heard about this book at the end of last year when my book club read The Glass Ocean which is a historical fiction take on the sinking of the Lusitania, chock full of espionage and romance. I absolutely DETESTED that book: it was not my cup of tea. But, it did make me interested in digging into the history of this global event that I knew little about, and thus, here I am.
From the viewpoint, Larson deftly weaved together two parallel narratives, though unlike Devil they don’t really have equal time because that wouldn’t make sense. On the one hand, we are following events leading up to the sinking of the ship and at the same simultaneously getting insight into President Wilson as we wait for America to join the fray. The Wilson bits were enlightening, really made him a person and not just a historical figure, though his pursuit of Edith (the woman he would eventually marry after the death of his first wife) had some squeamish moments as he didn’t really take “no thanks” and “not right now” as complete sentences.
Obviously, Wilson’s romance was beside the point. This is a book about war and tragedy and things that could and would never happen (a giant civilian ship being attacked by the Germans) most definitely happening. I’ll be honest, I did a lot of audioskimming on this one and had a hard time getting in to the story. I think for me audio was the wrong format and I would have liked it better as a good ol’ book, so when I tackle the rest of his novels (because I will) I’ll stick to that medium.