Dead Wake

Dead Wake by Erik Larson Book Summary

#1 New York Times Bestseller

From the bestselling author and master of narrative nonfiction comes the enthralling story of the sinking of the Lusitania

On May 1, 1915, with WWI entering its tenth month, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were surprisingly at ease, even though Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone. For months, German U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the era’s great transatlantic “Greyhounds”—the fastest liner then in service—and her captain, William Thomas Turner, placed tremendous faith in the gentlemanly strictures of warfare that for a century had kept civilian ships safe from attack. 

Germany, however, was determined to change the rules of the game, and Walther Schwieger, the captain of Unterseeboot-20, was happy to oblige. Meanwhile, an ultra-secret British intelligence unit tracked Schwieger’s U-boat, but told no one. As U-20 and the Lusitania made their way toward Liverpool, an array of forces both grand and achingly small—hubris, a chance fog, a closely guarded secret, and more—all converged to produce one of the great disasters of history.

It is a story that many of us think we know but don’t, and Erik Larson tells it thrillingly, switching between hunter and hunted while painting a larger portrait of America at the height of the Progressive Era. Full of glamour and suspense, Dead Wake brings to life a cast of evocative characters, from famed Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat to pioneering female architect Theodate Pope to President Woodrow Wilson, a man lost to grief, dreading the widening war but also captivated by the prospect of new love. 

Gripping and important, Dead Wake captures the sheer drama and emotional power of a disaster whose intimate details and true meaning have long been obscured by history.

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Dead Wake (Erik Larson) Book Reviews

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- Much-Anticipated, but Disappointed3 star

Bound up in personal details without much substantive geopolitical detail, other than some conspiracy theories, about the part the story played in America’s intervention in WW1. Proved to be a decent read until the end, when I realized that the last third of the book was dedicated to epilogue, appendices, and marketing material for Larson.

- Long Winded2 star

Basically I love historical books and delve into them with passion. I loved Devil in the White City, full of interesting details about a city I truly love. Dead Wake was so full of non essential people and their names, I could not keep track. So much minutiae that my brain glazed over. I was so ready to see the boat sink and put an end to the over winded dialogue. Sorry Erik, you are a great writer, but this book could have been at least a third shorter.

- Spellbinding5 star

This doesn’t read as some dusty essay. You can tell the author did exhaustive research and really brings the people to life retelling this tragedy. I read the entire book in 2 days and it was hard to put down

- Dead Wake5 star

Loved the book! Never wanted to put it down.

- Well told and I learned a lot5 star

Great writing and although everyone knows the ending the book keeps your interest. Personal stories from the survivors and perpetrators included.

- Highly recommend5 star

Great pace and just the right amount of detail. The sinking of the Lusitania had been just another detail of US History; this book provided so much useful backstory. This is a fast and engaging read.

- Excellent read.5 star

Another meticulous and captivating read from one of the best authors in this genre. If you liked devil in the white city, read this. If you haven't read either - read both.

- Dead wake4 star

Good read

- I can't wait for his next book.5 star

Like all of his previous books, Dead Wake keeps you turning pages way past normal sleeping time. Many new facts come to life that I had never heard or read. I can not wait to see what his next subject(s) will be.

- A must read5 star

Not being a non-fiction fan I am surprised at how much I enjoyed this book.

- Dead Wake5 star

One of the most special characters was Captain Turner. I found him , at time being written as very rough and unfriendly, as a very warm and brave person. I feel that in the 18 minutes, of the sinking, that with his orders and calmness , in this terrifying situation, saved many lives. I was not surprised by the actions of the Admiralty. They were, as are officials, in the United States, really trying to cover their own huge mistakes. As a history and government major, I found this book , very accurate and historically correct. I fully annoyed reading this work. I truthfully found it difficult to lay it down. I wanted to continue really without stopping. I found Eric Larson,to be an excellent writer and look forward to read his other works


Eric Larson has compiled a gripping account of intrigue, drama, heartbreak, suspense and tragedy in a personalized narrative that takes the reader into the hearts and lives of its characters. This is a ' must read' story.

- Learned some history4 star

I had known some events of sunken boats precipitated U.S. involvement in WWI. This story helped see the two year gap between those events. Good read.

- Amazing story5 star

Dead Wake shows what historian/writers can achieve at their height. Like Tuchman or McCullough, Larson finds both the fact and the humanity. He can explain *just enough* about buoyancy while firing a torpedo or pressurized steam coming into contact with cold water. He can introduce us to a family without being maudlin, and insert a bit of humor without breaking the narrative (particularly when qouting someone who loves exclamation marks!!!). He also shows the fallabality of “history’s greats” and the greatness of ordinary people.

- Well Written Historical Account of the Lusitania4 star

A must read, very informative.

- Engaging novel that lives up to the reviews4 star

Truly powerful!

- Pager Turner!5 star

Conspiracy theory? Is this the event that shaped Pearl Harbor?

- Dead Wake5 star

Excellent book. Well written and researched.

- Dead Awakining5 star

I like many Americans my age were taught that war was declared right after the sinking of the Lusitania. The story told by Mr. Larson was compelling and spellbinding. A great history lesson. Very tragic but entertaining reading. It gave me a new insight of Sir Winston Churchill. I lost a lot of respect for him after this narrative. I enjoy Mr. Larson's work's and hope he keeps writing for a long time and say kudos to his writing abilities.

- More than I expected5 star

Mr. Larson is one of my favorite writers and this book doesn't disappoint. The history learned about that time is amazing. It's one thing to know about the sinking but this book enlightened me in many ways about what was going on at this time in history.

- Enjoyed it5 star

Would recommend!

- Dead Wake: History well researched5 star

Dead Wake by Erik Larson is a well researched and interesting book for history buffs and readers of non-fiction. Larson brings to light a number of little known details about the possibly preventable loss of the great liner, her passengers and crew. A history of the U-boat crew was totally unknown to this reader until now. Larson's descriptive style paints a vivid picture of the events. The epilogue of the survivors lives is particularly fascinating.

- Phenomenal...5 star

Larson's finest work to date...and they have all been amazing books! The amount of research put into this book is astounding. I loved Larson's ability to weave in and out from story to story. He captures the audience early and never lets go. What a wonderfully written, yet horribly sad piece of history.

- Excellent5 star

This was such a good representation of history. Enjoyed reading and would recommend.

- Fantastic read!5 star

This book is a mesmerizing account of a horrible act of terrorism. It is written in such vivid detail that one often forgets it isn't a work of fiction. Would recommend to anyone.

- Awesome5 star

A good read. I would recommend it worth the money!

- Fiction readers will LOVE as much as history buffs5 star

I had to exercise restraint to not devour this gripping book in one sitting. Vivid stories-within-The-Story make the past feel intensely present, and awfully connected as if these people lived and died in the present century. A masterpiece of storytelling I'll be sure to read again.

- dead wake5 star

A grand read. He is such a skilled communicator. I kept wishing for pictures, and then I discovered that they could be found on the URLs quoted in the footnotes. Makes reading uniquely advantageous. One can find profiles of all the people aboard, and I found my father's nanny Agnes Crosbie who survived.

- Lusitania Larsen captivates again5 star

I enjoy the depth of all of his books. The Devil in White City being the most terrifying This one is no less engrossing. It covers what seemed to be a well-known story. Rather it is far more than that. I well eagerly await the next non-fiction story of his while I strongly recommend this one

- Revealing & Interesting4 star

It was difficult to chose between 3 & 4 stars for this book because although it was educational and emotionally charged, there were too many insignificant characters to follow (or not!) and I found the two maps lacking important locations noted in the narrative. One detailed and inclusive map would have sufficed. Larson reveals many facts about the Lusitania affair which I never knew so a good history lesson. An interesting read overall...EAF

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- Dead Wake5 star

This book is fantastic, spectacular and unforgettable. The sinking of the Cunard luxury liner Lusitania was an act so brazen, mean and barbaric that one cannot help but be intrigued, charmed and moved by Larson’s brilliant telling of the story. An unbelievable amount of research had to have been done to bring this story to light. An unimaginable amount of work to relate the facts of an unimaginable disaster.

- A Good Read4 star

Though a bit long winded it was a good read on the sinking of the Lusitania. I was recently in Kinsale and the local guide showed us some of the graves from the sinking of the Lusitania and mentioned the book. I had previously on had read only briefly about the sinking of the Lusitania. The book attempts to give a glimpse in to some of the lives of the passengers and crew of the Lusitania and the U-boat captain.

- Dead wake5 star

A great read.

- Great Read5 star

Fantastic, compelling and heart wrenching this book is a must read.

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You ever had that brain dead moment when you wake up and decided to cook eggs by putting in the eggs first then the oil?

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@WITCHYWINNlE like. when you’re dead asleep, like. almost REM level and you wake up like. not nicely and gradually just straight wake up

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What's the first thing you usually think about when you wake up? — How I wish I was dead

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I was dead sleep and I woke up and something told me to check my phone. I wake up to @_caitlynwatson straight sland…

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@saintsexual They can't move on from the dead ship someone wake them from dream and show them the reality their ship drown long time ago🙄🙄

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@ChinaWhite_2500 I’ll be dead, I’ll never wake up for work🥴🤦🏽‍♀️

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Dead legs?? Let me wake em up by hanging them

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@neethling_sw: @idestbrian @cjtjgeol They want millions of people dead to drive their agenda. Time for people all over the world to wake…

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If it’s dead why you still trying to poke it hoping to wake up. Somebody will show you!

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I'm gonna do the usual thang! I run off and leave a huge cloud of dust in my wake. When the cloud dissipates, I'm l…

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Anyone ever wake up from a dead sleep at 130 in the morning bc they remembered they were cooking buffalo chicken dip bc same

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Now Blasting: Death Therapy - Wake Me (When Im Dead) Listen live via

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I’ll dead fall asleep then wake up like that shit was a nap 🤬

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T Pain ft Chris Brown - Wake Up Dead (DJ Dexterous ReDrum) (Clean)

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@mayaheshham: What's the first thing you usually think about when you wake up? — why im still breathing. why im not dead? …

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