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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 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 exploded and sank in eighteen minutes, taking with her some twelve hundred people, more than half of the passengers and crew. Cold-blooded, deliberate, and unprecedented in the annals of war, the sinking of the Lusitania shocked the world. It also jolted the United States out of its neutrality-- 128 Americans were among the dead-- and hastened the nation's entry into World War I. In her riveting account of this enormous and controversial tragedy, Diana Preston recalls both a pivotal moment in history and a remarkable human drama. The story of the Lusitania is a window on the maritime world of the early twentieth century: the heyday of the luxury liner, the first days of the modern submarine, and the climax of the decades-long German-British rivalry for supremacy of the Atlantic. It is a critical chapter in the progress of World War I and in the political biographies of Woodrow Wilson, William Jennings Bryan, Kaiser Wilhelm II, and First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill. Above all, it is the story of the passengers and crew on that fateful voyage-- a story of terror and cowardice, of self-sacrifice and heroism, of death and miraculous survival. With a historian's insight and a novelist's gift for characterization and detail, Preston re-creates the events surrounding the Lusitania's last voyage, from the behind-the-scenes politics in each country and the German spy ring in New York, to the extraordinary scene as the ship sank and the survivors awaited rescue, to the controversial inquests in Britain and the United States into how the ship came to be hit and why she sank so quickly. Captain William Turner, steadfast and trustworthy but overconfident, believed that "a torpedo can't get the Lusitania-- she runs too fast." The passenger list included the rich and powerful (American millionaire Alfred Vanderbilt, theater producer Charles Frohman, Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat) as well as newlyweds and nursemaids, galley cooks and stokers, Quakers and cardsharps, ship's detectives and German stowaways. Preston weaves their voices throughout her compelling narrative, giving it a powerful immediacy. Drawing on a vast array of sources-- including interviews with survivors, letters and memoirs, recently released American and Admiralty archives, and previously untranslated German documents-- Diana Preston has resolved the controversies surrounding the Lusitania and written the definitive account of this pivotal event in western history.


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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 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 exploded and sank in eighteen minutes, taking with her some twelve hundred people, more than half of the passengers and crew. Cold-blooded, deliberate, and unprecedented in the annals of war, the sinking of the Lusitania shocked the world. It also jolted the United States out of its neutrality-- 128 Americans were among the dead-- and hastened the nation's entry into World War I. In her riveting account of this enormous and controversial tragedy, Diana Preston recalls both a pivotal moment in history and a remarkable human drama. The story of the Lusitania is a window on the maritime world of the early twentieth century: the heyday of the luxury liner, the first days of the modern submarine, and the climax of the decades-long German-British rivalry for supremacy of the Atlantic. It is a critical chapter in the progress of World War I and in the political biographies of Woodrow Wilson, William Jennings Bryan, Kaiser Wilhelm II, and First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill. Above all, it is the story of the passengers and crew on that fateful voyage-- a story of terror and cowardice, of self-sacrifice and heroism, of death and miraculous survival. With a historian's insight and a novelist's gift for characterization and detail, Preston re-creates the events surrounding the Lusitania's last voyage, from the behind-the-scenes politics in each country and the German spy ring in New York, to the extraordinary scene as the ship sank and the survivors awaited rescue, to the controversial inquests in Britain and the United States into how the ship came to be hit and why she sank so quickly. Captain William Turner, steadfast and trustworthy but overconfident, believed that "a torpedo can't get the Lusitania-- she runs too fast." The passenger list included the rich and powerful (American millionaire Alfred Vanderbilt, theater producer Charles Frohman, Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat) as well as newlyweds and nursemaids, galley cooks and stokers, Quakers and cardsharps, ship's detectives and German stowaways. Preston weaves their voices throughout her compelling narrative, giving it a powerful immediacy. Drawing on a vast array of sources-- including interviews with survivors, letters and memoirs, recently released American and Admiralty archives, and previously untranslated German documents-- Diana Preston has resolved the controversies surrounding the Lusitania and written the definitive account of this pivotal event in western history.

30 review for Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy

  1. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    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 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. Teachers have cut this Gordian knot by giving us landmark moments to which causation can be attributed. Chief among these moments is the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. His death didn't cause World War One; it was just one stop along doom's highway. Still, it's just easier to pretend it all started in Sarajevo. The same thing for the sinking of the Lusitania; it didn't immediately drag America into the conflict, but it's sure helpful to explain what we were doing "over there." When I first read this book, I knew two things about WWI. It started with an assassination, and it ended with AMERICA saving the day. The complexity of the war always scared me off. It took me a couple (or dozen) books, but I'm finally starting to get the gist of it. The lesson, I suppose, is to study. It is a lesson I learned far to late too become a doctor. But just in time to annoy my friends and family with WWI minutiae. The Lusitania was torpedoed off the Old Head of Kinsale, Ireland, on May 7, 1915. She sank quickly, killing 1,198 men, women, and children. The sinking immediately became one of the great propaganda tools in history, used by the British to turn world opinion against the Germans. The ship was made into a symbol, and along the way, the truth was obscured. Diana Preston's Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy removes the ship from the subjective, hyperbolic realm of war hysteria and returns it to its place as an artifact of history. Her real achievement, though, is to always remember that the core of the story is human. Preston's book starts methodically, placing a great deal of value on context. She devotes considerable space to discussing the outbreak of war, the history of the submarine, and America's strained relationship with Germany (America was technically neutral, but as in World War II, her neutrality was shot-through with Anglophilia.) There is also a chapter on the Lusitania's specifications, complete with the obligatory comparison to a skyscraper. (I would like an author with the boldness to compare an ocean liner to something other than a skyscraper or a city block. Come on! I'd love a measurement that gave me cargo capacity in terms of the number of penguins that could fill her hold, or the length of the ship as compared to New York City hot dog carts). There is an awful lot of build-up to the sinking. Indeed, some of these early chapters weren't strictly necessary, or they could have been shortened. However, I liked them. I'm a completist, with a weird thing for factoids. I was continually fascinated with the tiny details peppering the narrative. I liked knowing that 100 detectives watching for pickpockets were present in New York when Lusitania arrived on her maiden voyage. I also liked learning that the passengers had eaten 1,000 pineapples. Does this broaden my understanding of the sinking? Maybe, maybe not. Will I eventually get drunk at a bar and tell someone about this? Certainly. In the five years since I first learned those facts, I have yet to pull them out at a bar, though I have been drunk approximately 5,000 times since then. Even with a better knowledge of World War I, I still appreciated Preston's early chapters. Others might find them soporific. I found them helpful. Preston is aiming high with her take on the Lusitania. She is aiming to be definitive. Of course, the comparisons to that other shipwreck are inevitable: There were...plenty of life preservers - big, bulky Boddy's Patent Jackets filled with fiber. They made their wearers look like 'a padded football player, especially around the shoulders.' The Lusitania carried life jackets for all 1,959 aboard, with 1,228 to spare and 175 for children. Knowing they would soon be sailing into the war zone and conscious of the terrible lessons of the Titanic disaster, passengers quizzed the crew about the provision of lifeboats. As a result of the Titanic inquiry, Cunard had doubled the number of lifeboats on the Lusitania. She was carrying twenty-two open wooden lifeboats capable of carrying 1,322 people and twenty-six collapsible boats that could hold another 1,283. The collapsibles were boats with shallow, rigid wooden keels and folding canvas sides that could be raised and held in position by wooden pins and iron or steel stays. The action of raising the sides also pulled the seats into position. The marvel of this book is that all these details don't overwhelm the story. When I noted Preston's methodical structuring, I don't mean to imply that it is plodding or pedestrian. Rather, each chapter has its own arc while also building and connecting with all that has come before. The Lusitania's sinking is not a simple tale of ship meeting torpedo; it is a culmination of a thousand different forces. There's Britain's blockade; Germany's response (unrestricted submarine warfare); Britain's decision to register the Lusitania as an reserve auxiliary cruiser; Germany's warning to America's passengers; and finally, Walther Schwieger's decision to fire U-20's torpedoes. Preston's great realization is that the thread tying all these events together is the people. And so there is a chapter devoted to the passengers and crew of the Lusitania, where you meet the lowly Morton brothers, who washed the decks, as well as Alfred Vanderbilt, who'd inherited his father's millions. There is also a good deal of space devoted to U-20, and the men who sailed her (in an oddly-humanizing touch, Preston writes how the men rescued a dachshund from a Portuguese merchant vessel they sunk). When the torpedo strikes, Preston goes into Walter Lord mode. Though she doesn't rise to Lord's level from A Night To Remember (and seriously, who can?), she utilizes his technique of cross-cutting and quoting, so as to present a number of experiences from all around the ship. Unlike the sinking of the Titanic, which up until the final minutes unfolded with the stately pace of a tragic opera, the Lusitania sank fast and dirty. Shortly after the torpedo struck: [Captain:] Turner ordered Johnson to steer 'hard-a-starboard the helm,' intending to make for the shore. Johnson wrenched the wheel thirty-five degrees to starboard and shouted the stock response, 'helm hard-a-starboard.' The captain shouted to him to hold the ship steady and 'keep her head into Kinsale.' Johnson tried to steady the helm but found he could not...Johnson turned the wheel again, but this time the ship would not respond. The steering mechanism had locked. A despairing Turner tried to check the Lusitania's speed by reversing the engines...Down in the engine room Senior Third Engineer George Little heard the bell ring with the order, but there was nothing he could do. Second Engineer Smith was shouting to him in despair that the steam pressure had plunged from 195 pounds to 50. The engines were out of commission. The Lusitania was out of control, arcing helplessly into the wide blue sea... Captain Turner ordered the lifeboats away. Here, all the lessons of Titanic became moot, for the ship listed so heavily to starboard that the lifeboats on the port side soon slammed against the deck, and couldn't be launched. In the haste to get the other boats away, crewmen lost their grip on the falls, sending the boats crashing into the sea. Only 6 boats managed to launch clean. The book reaches its dramatic peak in these pages, as stories both heroic and pathetic emerge. There is a drunk stoker, stumbling around on deck with "the crown of his head torn open like a spongy, bloody pudding." There are three butchers who get stuck in an elevator between decks, left to their fate. Because there is no public address system, the crew has to shout its orders, but in the terrified crush, no one can hear them. Strangely enough, the sinking scenes did not strike me the same way upon rereading. I found the sinking, in fact, to be confusingly told. This is partially due to the chaotic nature of the sinking. As I mentioned in my original review, the Titanic took 2 hours 40 minutes to sink on a relatively even keel on an ocean described as a "mill pond." The Lusitania suffered a series of violent explosions, kept plowing through the ocean on a forward heading, heeled over so badly she almost capsized, and had disappeared in less time than it takes to watch a commercial-free sitcom. So yes, the narrative is going to be a bit fractured. Still, Preston, who does such a good job contextualizing the lead-up to the sinking, does not do a great job contextualizing the stories of the people struggling to survive. It's hard to place them in the ship. It's hard to remember who they are. Moreover, Preston makes the odd choice to place all the "technical" details in an appendix that concludes her book. A lot of these details could easily have been woven into the sinking chapter, to ensure a more complete presentation that combines first-person accounts with the actual mechanics of the ship's failure. For me, the test of whether a book is truly working on the human dimension is if I get chills. This is rare enough in novels, and rarer still in non-fiction. Here, it happened several times. Indeed, I challenge you to read about the last moments of Alfred Vanderbilt - the scion of a ruthless capitalist who was handing out life jackets to women and children before he was washed away by the sea - without at least a little shiver. Yes, some of this is testament to the inherent drama in the event. On the other hand, a story isn't a story until it's told. Facts, no matter how dramatic, require the talents of an author to make them live. I found this even truer the second time around. In the five years since I first picked this up, I've had two daughters, and it has made me into a miserable sap in many ways. Accordingly, I was profoundly struck by the number of children lost. Fifty-six kids died on the Titanic, all but one of those youngsters - Lorraine Allison - from third class. The order on the Titanic was women and children first, and the children who died died because of geography. They were in steerage, and the crew did a poor job of getting the steerage passengers to the boat deck. On the Lusitania, 94 children, including 31 infants, were lost. They died because they had no chance. The journalist William Langewiesche once wrote an epic piece on the sinking of the ferry Estonia. In memorable prose, he noted the cruel Darwinian nature of survival. "There was no God to turn to for mercy," he wrote. "There was no government to provide order." And in his starkest observation, he noted: "Love only slowed people down." On a heeling ship, wracked by internal explosions, with half the lifeboats unable to be lowered, and the crew a dismal mess, the children were lambs to the slaughter. There was no "women and children" first, there was only swim or drown. Preston tells the story of six year-old Helen Smith, who survived the sinking while both her parents died. There is a picture of her in the book that shows her holding an armful of dolls given to her by the people of Queenstown while she'd been taken around looking for her mom and dad. I started bawling. Swear to God. (She lived to the age of 84, by the way, and she had a daughter she named for her mom). Post-sinking, Preston explores the implications the Lusitania had on America's entry into World War One. She also includes an extended discussion of various myths, such as whether the British admiralty offered up the Lusitania as a sacrificial lamb to nudge the United States toward war. After the fever pitch of the actual sinking - an ocean turned red, bodies in the surf, all within sight of the green hills of Ireland - all this is necessarily a bit of a let-down, one which goes on for quite a while. This is not to say the final sections are not informative, because they are. They do a good job clarifying the muddle of myths, lies, and half-truths that surround the Lusitania. (And for you burgeoning naval architects out there, Preston provides an appendix which gives a detailed "technical account" of the sinking). I can see people frustrated with these chapters. I was emotionally involved in the immediate aftermath, the search for survivors, the burial of the dead. I also liked the chapter on the Lusitania inquiry, presided over by the same Lord Mersey who whitewashed the Titanic inquiry. Other discussions, however, such as the moral quibbling of William Jennings Bryan, failed to keep my full attention. Preston also presents the argument over whether the Lusitania was a legitimate target. I was a little disappointed in this section, because after marshaling all the facts, Preston comes to the rather bland conclusion that Britain, America and Germany were all to blame. I would've liked something a little more daring. In my opinion, World War One is the ultimate example of Victor's history. As a result, we are all caught in this kind of pre-Nazi mindset, in which we blame the Germans for World War One because we are certain they later started World War Two. The reality, though, is that Germany wasn't all at fault, either in starting the war or in their conduct at sea. True, the Germans unleashed unrestricted submarine warfare. And true, they sank an ocean liner. However, that ocean liner - the Lusitania - was included on the rolls as an auxiliary merchant cruiser. Even though she had never been called into active service, she was undoubtedly carrying weapons and other contraband. Moreover, in violation of international law, Britain had blockaded Germany and prohibited neutral nations from trading with her. Thus, while Britain made hay out of babies snatched from their mother's arms as the Lusitania plunged beneath the waves, hundreds of thousands of German children were starving on land. I would've liked Preston to have made a stronger argument for British culpability. When I first wrote that, I knew nothing about World War I. Now, having read a great deal on the topic - in order to fully appreciate the centenary - I know next to nothing. I still think the Germans get too much blame for starting the war. But they certainly deserve all the moral condemnation in the world for the sinking. Moreover, the Germans were stupid for doing so. Their technical excuses pale in comparison to the worldwide outrage. I want to act surprised at the inept German diplomatic response, but this was par for the course. Their diplomacy stunk, and when you start to look at their failures, from the initial "blank check" to Austria-Hungary, to unrestricted submarine warfare, to the Zimmerman Telegram, it becomes patently obvious why they found the entire world against them. The sinking did not plunge America into the war. It did ensure that when America finally entered, it wasn't going to be hard to come up with reasons. The loss of the Lusitania was a massive propaganda tool. Hanging in my office, is an "ENLIST" poster I purchased from the National World War I Museum in Kansas City. The poster shows a woman clutching a baby sinking into the deep. It came out after the Lusitania went down. This is a big book, and it encompasses a lot. Despite the sweep of its scope, it is also intimate, striking that magic Tolstoyan balance between the epic movement of History and the lives of those who lived through it. I have some other Lusitania books lined up. I'm willing to wager, however, that they will not be as fully or richly detailed as this.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jan C

    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 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 shoot straight. We learn about a lot of the passengers and the crew (not the best, but Britain was already at war, so they had to take what they could get, including spies). We also learn about the people on the sub, the captain and much of the crew. We all know what happens. They torpedo the ship. But the question arises: how many torpedoes did they shoot? Was it one, as the Germans alleged. If so, what was the second explosion that everyone felt? Did they have armaments on board, as the Germans have alleged. After the Customs people did their inspection there could have been secret armaments loaded. (view spoiler)[ It is surmised that the second explosion was a boiler or coal explosion, although some unloaded ammunition was being sent on the ship. I had thought that I heard that years later Churchill admitted that there were armaments. Not so, per Preston. (hide spoiler)] I do find troubling the maneuvering by the British Admiralty to spin the story, in today's parlance. Whatever instructions Captain Turner received they didn't want it to come out. They were spinning like crazy. And why did they pull ships back from saving the people when the ship did go down? And why did it go down so fast? Why did no one know what to do about their life jackets or why didn't they crew know how to launch the life boats? Preston points out that after the Titanic went down, Cunard was making sure there were enough lifeboats to accommodate every passenger. Except that some of the collapsible life boats were painted to the deck. Looks good, but makes them unusable. And many of the people had their life jackets upside down or backwards. People who knew better tried to get the situation corrected but they couldn't get to everyone. And not everyone could find their life jacket. People had apparently gone into their cabins and taken them. I thought Preston really made this come alive. And I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I'll have to get going on Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson now.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    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 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 Ireland was considered a military area, neutral and passenger shipping were in danger. RMS Lusitania was the largest, most luxurious vessel still making the transatlantic passenger run. Despite warnings in the newspapers from the Imperial German Embassy, before the ship sailed, Cunard reassured passengers that the ship was too fast for any submarine. Yet, as Lusitania sailed closer to land, submarines were lying in wait and ready to attack. This is a fascinating read, explaining what happened and why and the aftermath of events.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Colleen

    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 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, heavily sourced and annotated. For starters, death by shipwreck was totally demystified to me--not that I thought it looked great on the Titanic, but I guess there are worse ways to go than hypothermia--Lusitania showed me that this is not the case. Having your eyes pecked out by birds while still alive or to all the people trapped in the elevators (the Lusitania was tragically a big adopter of elevators in lieu of stairs) or the fact that while at least a lot of children made it off the Titanic, extremely few children, across all the classes, survived the Lusitania--which seems crazy since they were in sight of friendly land, but very few of the lifeboats made it off--since they did not have drills and a lot of them got painted to the deck and/or very few knew how to lower them down without killing everyone in the lifeboat. Coupled I guess with there wasn't really a tragically solemn band playing while the employees nobly tried to save the passengers like there is with in retelling the Titanic story--here it seems like it was a free-for-all scramble, with a few examples of nobility--and whatever sympathy I had for the captain after reading Dead Wake, I had very little in this version--if anything the lack of drills or just knowing how to use the lifejackets and boats ensured the carnage that happened and his dithering and countermanding orders after the strike also led to mass casualties, leaving aside how they got hit to begin with since he was slowly taking multiple measurements and conserving coal at the lowest speed after being warned about U-Boat activity. Should the Lusitania have had an escort and been warned a bit harder? Probably, but I don't think there was a cover up either. Book actually does a great job of laying out the various conspiracies and debunking a lot of them, while showing the lax security around the docks to begin with as well as the German espionage and saboteurs in the area (with the warnings posted in advance in the papers). Also, people from the past are surprising--in regards to Admiral Lord Charles Beresford: "He was rumored to have been the lover of the murdered Empress Elizabeth of Austria. He shared her passion for riding to hounds, surpassing it to the extent of having a hunting scene tattooed across his buttocks with the fox disappearing into the cleft. In naval matters he had a high opinion of his own abilities and a low one of Fisher's."

  5. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    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. 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.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    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 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 more. First, there was an unexpected chapter on the history of trans-Atlantic passenger travel, culminating in the race to build the finest luxury liners that included White Star's Titanic and Cunard's Lusitania. But then, the author introduces the reader to dozens of passengers by name, and follows them through the entire story from the departure to the sinking to the ever-changed lives of the survivors. I felt that I knew many of these passengers by the end of the book. And there was no need for a made-up Rose and Jack romance to make the story personal. The political situation is not ignored by any means. The German government had published a strong warning not to travel on British ships, regardless of their nature, and the passengers were aware of it, although most thought they were not really in danger of attack. The Kaiser was not enthusiastic about the policy of unrestricted submarine warfare, but was not forceful enough to prevent it. The result of the sinking, however, was a public relations nightmare for Germany, basically turning all neutral and Allied-leaning countries against her. Britain and America both exploited the propaganda value to the fullest extent. While only three years since the sinking of the Titanic, passenger preparation for the possibility of sinking was sorely inadequate. Rich travelers do not wish to be alarmed by lifejacket instruction and lifeboat drills. With the ship listing at 30 degrees after the attack, lifeboats more often than not spilled their passengers into the sea or capsized upon hitting the water, often after landing directly on passengers already swimming. The descriptions of the dead and dying, especially mothers losing their babies, are heart-wrenching. But the author goes further. There were hearings and trials, of course, because blame has to be assigned. She nicely summarizes the evidence and the actions, including conspiracy theories (such as Churchill and the British government suppressing warnings to the Lusitania and luring the Germans into attacking, thus bringing the US into the war earlier). She concludes wisely that the Lusitania was, rather, "the victim of complacency and neglect". For me to finish a 430+ page book in two weeks (given the number of other activities I'm involved in) is unusual, but I have been looking forward to every stretch of spare time, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    James Burns

    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 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 and readers alike, this book is a really great book to read, it is well researched and well written. The author has given the reader A thorough foundation of the war, the passengers and the ship itself. This is the story of senseless death and The horrifying accounts of dying and drowning of women, children and infants. After researching and reviewing the facts I have come to the conclusion that the German U-boat commander should not shoulder all the blame for this tragedy, The Cunard Company and Capt. Turner of the RMS Lusitania and the British Admiralty should be charged with murder and criminal neglect. The Cunard company and Capt. Turner were over confident in the invincibility and speed of the ship. Capt. Turner should shoulder a majority of the blame for not taking the necessary precautions in the most obvious and simple details, especially after being warned that an attack was threatened while in New York harbor. Why did he not use the ships greatest asset, her speed, and why did he not take precautions and preparations to have the ship in a higher state of readiness for a potential torpedo attack. The description of cowardice by some of the crew and the male passengers causing a greater loss of life. As in the sinking of the Titanic there was great heroism by the ships officers and it's crew, and certain of the men passengers, especially Mr. Vanderbilt. I have always had a love affair for the beauty and grander of the luxury liners of the early 1900's, especially the RMS Titanic and the RMS Lusitania. They are a beauty to watch as slice through the ocean waves, and the outline of the ships with the four smoke stacks flying bye, compared to the ugly floating hotels that calls themselves luxury liners of today. Those days are lost forever. As we progress in our technology we endanger our future and we make the world not a safer place but a real potential of ruin and damnation of human race as we knew it then. Progress is not always good when you use that technology for evil and death and destruction. Fear is not a way to live.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn Harris

    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 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 rescue of the few survivors. What is striking throughout the book is how disaster was anticipated by many of the passengers and the press from the beginning of the voyage, in contrast to the confidence of the passengers on the Titanic a few years earlier. Also, safety precautions recommended by the Titanic inquiry were not uniformly implemented by the First World War, contributing to the death toll on the Lusitania. A tragic and compelling book about a disaster that informed the American entry into the First World War in 1917.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Laura Edwards

    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 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 disaster.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Pat

    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.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Heidi

    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 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 things could have been different, if individuals involved would have been more proactive. Anway--I am still thinking about it all the time which means that it must have made a big impact on me.

  12. 5 out of 5

    ♥ 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 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 a quick read for me (I although i admit I must guess when i finished it, did not keep track of my reading lately)

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jan C

    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. 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.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Elaine

    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.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Todd Stockslager

    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. 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.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tomi

    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.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jessie

    ‭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 ‭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 involved and not merely the politics of the after effects. Preston is gifted at making the reader feel as if they are watching the event happen in front of their eyes, following each human being through the excitement of being on board such a luxurious vessel, and the horror of their desperation as it starts to sink in record time. ‭Eighteen minutes is spanned between multiple chapters, so the reader does not miss a thing. People who are introduced towards the beginning of the voyage are followed and thus no one gets left out. You are left hoping and praying that ones you may have grown attached to (Avis Dolphin for me personally) have managed to escape and their stories are not being told just through loved ones and witnesses. ‭When something such as this happens, it’s hard not to focus solely on the event but read on into the aftermath. And sometimes it’s even harder to get through reading about what had happened afterwards because it’s frustrating to go through the trials and the pain. The worst part of it all, if you are not knowledgable or interested in the subject, is the politics. ‭The book does grow a bit dry throughout the last couple of chapters when it goes, in my opinion, too much into the politics aspect, but the significance is still there since it was a world changing event. Regardless, I find the ending to be a bit dry. ‭The writing of the book seems to be like the lives of the victims. It starts off with the beginning of life - the boat being built, the background of the war - and then goes through the ups and downs of life including the fun acticivies that were on the boat and then the sinking. Then the last sections, Remember the Lusitania and Willful Murder? is the bloated corpse, just bobbing along until it itself decays and becomes dry and foetid. ‭All in all, enjoyable throughout most of it. The parts that I did not like, I understand their meaning. It’s a personal distaste. ‭7/10.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    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 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 as anything but that. Finally, the politics in Britain were interesting, the fact that so many individuals were in completion with each other for political future, the potential for sinking of the Lusitania was just another political crisis to be taken advantage of. The politics around the Lusitania being sunk were reprehensible. That it was allowed to be sunk in order to swing public opinion overwhelmingly to the side of Britain and to bring the USA into the war, much like war itself, terrible and unnecessary. I really appreciated the back stories of some of the passengers. (Actually, I skipped some of this,) but appreciated the author’s respect for the passengers. Obviously it is the rich who’s stories get told. It is unfortunate that we don’t know anything about most of the men working on the ship. I also really appreciated the excruciating detail and effort the author put into describing passenger’s attempts to board life boats, the chaos on deck, and the survival in the water. The author describes about how cold the water was, human physiology, how difficult it is to survive in cold water for any length of time, and just the violence that a sinking ship inflicts on fragile bodies. Finally, I thought that the author’s analysis of the U-Boat captain was interesting. She didn’t paint Schwieger as a monster or a cold-blooded killer. She could have but she didn’t. The author doesn’t give Schwieger any sympathy; he made the choice to shoot. But she does spend some time analyzing his reasons, the lack of direction he had, and his possible regrets after the sinking. The only topics/details I wanted to learn more about was the actual construction of the ship. Was it a typical ocean liner or was it considered to be a cutting-edge ship? Also, Turner’s four-point bearing is discussed, but why would Turner have wanted a four-point bearing? Were ships still navigating on charts, speeds, bearings, polar observations, etc? I think the answer is generally yes, but it would have been nice to learn a little more about the construction, operation and control of the ship.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Antigone Walsh

    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 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 than themselves. The ship's captain was right. If the government had cared so much why did they fail to provides protection and escorts? But their inadequacies do not excuse the Germans who targeted, stalked and decimated merchant/ passenger ships without warning. The speculation at the end was fairly useless. Too bad there were no photos. Sadly the lessons of the Lusitania have not been learned. The corporate government media complex still exploits the innocent for political and financial gain. Innocent citizens are targeted and victimized. It was once suggested that wars would end if the leaders who started them and their loved ones were the ones to face the danger on the front lines. Sad piece of history.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Julie Means Kane

    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 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 of reactions on the US, England and Germany. While there was blame all around - from the US's unacknowledged bias toward Britain, to the Royal Navy's fudging of records - newly available German records show the Imperial Navy's commitment to unrestricted use of submarine warfare and their unwillingness to respect the international agreement to "stop and search" commercial liners. This volume provides a riveting read as well as adding significantly to our understanding of this pivotal event the American path toward war.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Alenka of Bohemia

    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 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 information on all the events surrounding the ship, not merely the tragedy itself, and I have to admit some of it I skimmed. Still, a vivid and touching book that made me rather depressed.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Charlie Zizza

    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.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Virginia

    Excellent source of information about WWI , U-boats and the significance of this large passenger vessel. Story of individuals on board as well.

  24. 4 out of 5

    miz_delaney

    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. 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.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Susan Newman

    Sad.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    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. 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.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Michael Nichols

    Very well research and written history of an horrendous event.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Rudy Seifert

    Too much information to be enjoyable reading

  29. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    While the tragedy of the sinking of the Titanic has historically received greater popular attention, the deliberate sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 as an act of war had greater consequence. Although each resulted in a great loss of life, the Lusitania quickly came to stand for the new level of ruthlessness in war. She was torpedoed deliberately by the German submarine U-20 which had been lying in wait for her off Ireland. Why was this, since she was a passenger liner! Two basic reasons: the first While the tragedy of the sinking of the Titanic has historically received greater popular attention, the deliberate sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 as an act of war had greater consequence. Although each resulted in a great loss of life, the Lusitania quickly came to stand for the new level of ruthlessness in war. She was torpedoed deliberately by the German submarine U-20 which had been lying in wait for her off Ireland. Why was this, since she was a passenger liner! Two basic reasons: the first is that since Germany was suffering significantly from an intense naval blockage by the British fleet, she became increasingly desperate to break the siege and believed that inflicting greater human and material loss by her submarines might cause the British public to pressure their leadership to seek peace. The second is that Allied passenger liners frequently carried munitions and other war material in addition to passengers. Historian Diana Preston's account of the final voyage of the Lusitania, as well as of the relevant political and military maneuvering surrounding it, makes for fascinating reading. She is a fine writer as well as a good historian, and the reader becomes acquainted with many of those on board the ship as she sailed into history, with the captain of the U-boat, as well as with some of the important political and military players in America, England, and Germany. Like the Titanic before it, it was a ship of the Cunard line and, as such, was luxuriously appointed. She had a capable captain and crew, although it remains puzzling why -- as she neared Ireland and Great Britain, a place where submariners were known to lurk -- she did not use her great speed to her advantage. In fact, it was her relatively slow speed -- combined with no evasive efforts -- that made her such an easy target. One torpedo is all it took. Again like the Titanic before her, she sank fairly quickly, one of the reasons why the loss of life was so heavy. Ms. Preston's detailed accounts of the ship's final moments -- and the wrenching efforts of her passengers to save themselves and their children -- are gripping. The uproar following her sinking directly -- although clearly not immediately -- contributed to the entrance into the First World War by the United States in 1917. The facts that such passenger ships did carry war material, and that laypeople -- including neutral persons from the United States -- ignored clear German warnings against sailing on the Lusitania -- were overwhelmed by the propaganda emphasizing the hundreds of women and children who had died under terrifying circumstances. Furthermore, this "savagery" on the part of the Germans played a critical role in moving American public sentiment even further against the Germans and towards favoring the British. The American administration -- which, despite its own leanings toward England, had seriously attempted to maintain a neutral posture -- also grew increasingly angry with the German's widening submarine warfare. Ms. Preston makes clear that part of what was at work here is that the use of underwater craft to make war upon non-combatants was itself brand-new and, as such, was regarded as "outside the bounds of civilized warfare," as if such a term were not in itself an oxymoron. (Ms. Preston had just recently, in fact, published a new book in which she addresses the numerous ways in which World War I introduced weapons of war unknown just decades earlier. In addition to the submarine, these included aerial warfare, aerial bombing of civilian targets, and the use of poison gas.) I recommend this book to anyone interested in World War I generally, as well as to those who wish to peek into a time still markedly different than our own more cynical and less trusting days. A sombre tale, intriguingly and fluidly told!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Perhaps this is odd, but I find the subject of the Sinking of the Lusitania fascinating. Perhaps it is because so many people's lives were affected and lost at once, and it was interesting to see their reactions under pressure and fear of death, some were brave, some were cowardly, some were selfish and some were selfless. Like the first book I've read on the subject, Dead Wake by Eric Larson, An Epic Tragedy: Lusitania by Diana Preston looks at many people as they travel on the Lusitania and e Perhaps this is odd, but I find the subject of the Sinking of the Lusitania fascinating. Perhaps it is because so many people's lives were affected and lost at once, and it was interesting to see their reactions under pressure and fear of death, some were brave, some were cowardly, some were selfish and some were selfless. Like the first book I've read on the subject, Dead Wake by Eric Larson, An Epic Tragedy: Lusitania by Diana Preston looks at many people as they travel on the Lusitania and experience her sinking (The Lusitania was a passenger liner torpedoed by the Germans during WW1 before America entered the war). Preston seems to repeat the accounts of more people than Larson did, which I appreciate, even though getting glimpses of so many people does make it a bit 'crowded' at times and hard to remember who's who (that's more realistic right?). It makes it seem like one is getting a 'bigger picture' of the event. As I was reading it seemed almost as if I could see the event happening. It was made more 'real' by Preston's describing the normal life and daily events that were happening just before and when the torpedo hit. Some people were eating lunch, others were taking walks on the deck, one man was trying to prove to another man how the Lusitania could not be torpedoed when the question was settled by the ship being hit during his explanation! And then the accounts of thoughts and actions of people as the ship sunk and they entered the water (the huge ship sunk in only 18 minutes!) made it eerily 'come to life'. Some were inspirational in their bravery, some were pitiable in their cowardice and the behavior of others was shocking in their desperation to focus on saving their own lives. One man found two babies left behind on deck, picked them up and jumped into a life boat with one under each arm. Other men pushed terrified women into lifeboats while other men and women ignored those in need and greedily fought for the means to save themselves. Some survivors remembered having odd thoughts pass through their minds while in the water. I was touched and amused by the account of one man, Charles Hill who was "dismayed by the determined selfishness of his fellow passengers….As Hill thrashed in the water and began to go under again, he had the irrelevant thought that 'I hadn't paid the barber for my week's shaves.' He almost laughed. But moments later, as he tried to swim to the surface, he felt he was 'dragging something heavy.'" When he came up he found an old man holding one of his ankles while a woman with a child held his other leg, and he didn't kick them off (which one would think would be normal reaction as is proven by the accounts of the unloving actions of others)! He grabbed onto a lifeboat and they were all pulled in. I found Third Officer Albert Bestic's thought, as he hung on to an upturned collapsible lifeboat, especially striking when he "shuddered" at the sounds around him, "like the despair, anguish and terror of hundreds of souls passing into eternity." Diana Preston writes well and keeps the interest almost all of the way through. Towards the end of the book she deals with conspiracy theories, questions, speculations and motives about the sinking of the Lusitania, and I found that a bit boring, though others may not. There were was some bad language used (quotations of various people at the time), and there was at least one detail given about someone's tatoo that I absolutely did not need to know…. It is an interesting account, a sobering look at the actions and thoughts of various people who are close to being summoned to stand before God. Many thanks to the folks at Bloomsbury Publishing for sending me a review copy of this book! My review did not have to be favorable.

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