I’m a bad librarian. I never like to stray from any genre other than realistic or dystopian fiction (I do love you, Red Queen). Okay… and the occasional Harry Potter.
But… I’ve recently finished my first of hopefully many branchings-out into a new genre. I visited good ole [addicting] Half Price Books and perused over to the historical nonfiction section. They had this little number on display, and I’m oh so glad they did.
It’s the real-life story of the disaster: the sinking of the Lusitania. No Kate & Leo romance. No Hollywood. 100% fact and first-hand accounts.
While this is a nonfiction piece, it definitely reads like a narrative. You don’t feel like you’re getting fact after fact after boring oh my gosh I fell asleep fact. Larson delivers the true stories woven together of the passengers and crew (and governments) related to the sinking of the Lusitania.
He has a huge list of references (most of them first-hand) in the back of the book, which makes this nerd very happy. You can trust everything you read to be complete fact. And not the boring kind.
My favorite person included in the narrative is Theodate Pope. A sassy, I’m-going-to-do-it-my-way kind of gal. She’s got serious tenacity and really shines throughout the entire book.
The tale of the Lusitania is definitely not for the light of heart, but you will find so many of the facts included to be very intriguing. Here are some of the most interesting [I’ll keep some to myself so you can have your jaw-drop moment when you read it]:
The British government [Churchill] may or may not have said in a letter that they hoped the Lusitania would be sunk by the Germans so that America would enter the war.
President Wilson was very distracted by a very reality-TV like situation.
Out of 1195 people, only 764 survived. And not because they couldn’t have if certain actions had been taken by the captain, crew, and Cunard (the shipping line).
The number of infants aboard was unusually high for an Atlantic journey.
The facts about the sinking of the ship (number of torpedoes, a secret Room 40 that knew about U-20’s route and actions, and the fact that there were no military ships to help escort the Lusitania to port, etc.) were kept hidden for years from the public. The Captain received most of the blame for the disaster.
It took just 18 minutes to sink the massive, luxurious ocean liner.
I highly recommend this book to those of you who love a good story, but are seeking something a little different. You’ll gain such a beautiful background in a way that you’ve never experienced history before. I can’t wait to experience another of Larson’s novels.