Friday, 12 February 2016

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, by Erik Larson

I first came across Erik Larson when I read "Garden of the Beasts" for my book-club. I was immediately drawn to his style of writing, that included so much detail but still managed to keep my interest up and make me devour each page...

When we decided to read "Lusitania", I was taken aback.  I had no idea what we were talking about (I am a southern European - when speaking to northern compatriots, they were indeed aware of the whole story...)

The book continues in the same pattern:  lots of details that shed light into the minute particles of the cosmos that is warfare and more specifically submarines.  However, this was its downfall as well - however interesting the information was (and indeed I was surprised to learn some of these things) it is still submarines - I just couldn't warm up to them and I really could do without all the technical specifications ...

We find ourselves at the start of the first World War.  We see how the British and the German forces each start building up their war machines and how 

the war began with the geopolitical equivalent of a bush fire.  In late June Archduke  Franz Ferdinand, inspector-general of the Austro-Hungarian army, travelled to Bosnia, which Austria had annexed in 1908. While driving through Sarajevo, he was shot dead by an assassin sponsored by the Bland Hand, a group devoted to unifying Serbia and Bosnia.  On July 28, Austria stunned the world by declaring war on Serbia.

What??? where was I when they were teaching these things in school? (at least I hope they did).  So much information, so much excitement, so much history in the making... It really is amazing to think that whatever history we are witnessing today, chances are it's already happened before...

And the treasures continue:  Lusitania is the first real case when submarines are used at war.  Who had this idea?  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (yes, of the Sherlock Holmes fame) who wrote a short story, describing exactly what was to happen shortly afterwards.  Life imitating art, over and over again!

However, this is not a book on war only.  It's a book also on people, politics, entrapments, conspiracies.  It's the story of Captain Turner, who apart from being a remarkable professional was also a remarkable person.  Who happened to get entangled in one of the worst scenarios that would see him disregard the Admiralty's directives, not keeping a mid-channel course, that ended in the sinking of the Lusitania.  And then found himself being tried for murder... Long story short, based on information that became available much later (...), it appears that the British Government (under Churchill) had plotted to endanger the Lusitania in order to involve the United States in the war.

It's a known fact that history is first written by the winners.  But it's always good to know that, even if it takes some more time, the scholars of history will make certain that the little voices are also heard and we will find ourselves with a more comprehensive picture of our world...

1 comment:

  1. I've also listen to it recently. I honestly could have done without knowing about President Wilson's love affair. There's no connection to the story there (so he was distracted in one press conference, big deal!).




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