Regular price: $31.50

Membership details Membership details
  • A 30-day trial plus your first audiobook, free.
  • 1 credit/month after trial – good for any book, any price.
  • Easy exchanges – swap any book you don’t love.
  • Keep your audiobooks, even if you cancel.
  • After your trial, Audible is just $14.95/month.
OR
In Cart

Publisher's Summary

From the number-one New York Times best-selling author and master of narrative nonfiction comes the enthralling story of the sinking of the Lusitania, published to coincide with the one-hundredth anniversary of the disaster.

On May 1, 1915, 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 anxious. Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone, and for months its U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the era's great transatlantic "Greyhounds", 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. He knew, moreover, that his ship--the fastest then in service--could outrun any threat.

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 ways 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, mystery, and real-life suspense, Dead Wake brings to life a cast of evocative characters, from famed Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat to pioneering female architect Theodate Pope Riddle to President 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 that helped place America on the road to war.

©2015 Erik Larson (P)2014 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"As events escalate toward the momentous sinking of the British passenger liner Lusitania by a German U-boat during WWI, this comprehensive history reads almost like a novel, and that's exactly how Scott Brick narrates it. He adds emphasis where needed, goes quieter when appropriate, and varies his pacing effectively. His narration doesn't get in the way of the writing - it enhances it." (AudioFile)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    5,355
  • 4 Stars
    3,163
  • 3 Stars
    942
  • 2 Stars
    186
  • 1 Stars
    76

Performance

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    5,467
  • 4 Stars
    2,363
  • 3 Stars
    670
  • 2 Stars
    135
  • 1 Stars
    88

Story

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    5,033
  • 4 Stars
    2,598
  • 3 Stars
    847
  • 2 Stars
    170
  • 1 Stars
    58
Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Naivety VS Barbarians Of War

This amazing book offers a 360 degree birds-eye view of the history of these WWI events from multiple perspectives. A harrowing, engaging and throughly shocking story that kept me hanging on each word. I think Brick did a great job with the narration.

The book skillfully blends the cold dispassionate stories of U-boat attacks and the use of chemical weapons contrasted with the blind trust of the passengers of the Lusitania traveling into a war zone and the manipulative nature of the Admiralty and Room 40 trying to draw America into the war. A full picture is painted and a deeper understanding of life in the WWI years is made deftly available to the reader.

Recommended to history lovers who enjoy blow by blow accounts that place a human face on distant events. Truly a story of senseless murder on the high seas. Many questions are left unanswered in this retelling of negligence vs conspiracy theory incident vs random coincidence. Be forewarned not for the faint of heart. Wow.

41 of 47 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Vicki
  • Montpelier, VA, United States
  • 11-14-16

Enjoyable but needs editing

Where does Dead Wake rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

I love Erik Larson's books and enjoyed this one too. He's very good at giving a 360 view of an event. That said, this one could have benefited from some editing. For example, we didn't need the details of Wilson's love life to know that he wasn't interested in going to war....because no one in the US was interested in participating in that war.

If you’ve listened to books by Erik Larson before, how does this one compare?

Devil in the White City is still my favorite and Isaac's Storm was better than this one too. Scott Brick's narration was a bit over dramatic.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Larson excellent, blends big themes with humanity

Larson is in fine form, weaving together the small details of the passengers and crew of the Lusitania, a history of the ship, an overview of international relations, a truncated bit of biography of President Wilson during WWI before the US entered the Great War, a peak into Great Britain's Room 40 as it secretly read Germany's encrypted messages, and an exploration of the captain of submarine U-20 on the patrol that would bring it into a fateful meeting with the Lusitania. Where the fate of the ship is so widely known, Larson must work hard to build the suspense. He does this ably by making sure the reader is introduced to enough individuals to make their journey across the Atlantic fraught, as you begin to wonder who will and won't survive, and start picturing the agony that passengers and crew would feel if separated from siblings, lovers, spouses, friends, or children.

As Larson puts together the larger picture and sets the scene, we range from German U-boat captains, to a widowed Woodrow Wilson, to a pugnacious Winston Churchill, to a ship's crew lacking extensive experience. He lets us in on the reasons for various passengers' trips, describes the treasures they brought with them, and what they hoped for out of the Atlantic crossing. Interspersed with the intensely human details are lovingly rendered descriptions of the ship, and worrying revelations about the German's intentions toward Atlantic shipping and the uneven protection offered by the British Admiralty in response. The reader gets a very focused examination of a small part of World War I, seeing how warfare was beginning to change, how targets that were not wholly military were being stalked and that civilians were quickly becoming casualties.

With disaster looming, the reader knows that the Lusitania is speeding toward Britain but that its final destination will not be a dock but a sinking. At least 80% of the book covers the lead up to that disaster. And when the torpedoes strike, the reader is likewise struck with how luck (good for the U-boat, bad for the Lusitania) plays such a role in the event. Larson's description of the 18 minutes between torpedo strike and ultimate sinking are gripping, harrowing, and somber. He recounts impossible decisions: do you first rescue your sleeping child one deck below or your playing toddler one deck above; do you take the step off of the rail even though you can't swim; is there time to retrieve a life vest; should you search the ship for loved ones or get onto a lifeboat; do you lift one more floating person into a raft and risk capsizing it? Through use of interviews and written accounts by survivors, as well as diaries from passengers, Larson has masterfully recounted events (and personalities) leading up to the event, the reality of the sinking ship and struggle for life itself, and the aftermath.

And that aftermath manages to be troubling, confusing, mournful, and hopeful at once. Most troubling was the British Admiralty's immediate decision to try to blame the entire event on Captain Turner (the man in charge of the Lusitania), despite the fact that the Admiralty itself ignored some clear warnings and did not provide basic escorts for the Lusitania's protection. Suggested reasons abound, ranging from conspiracies to try to force America's hand and make them join the war to too jealously protecting intelligence to mere ineptitude. For the passengers themselves, after the sinking it meant waiting for rescue in cold water (some dying of hypothermia), finding out that companions had died, having to identify bodies. And for relatives of the passengers, there was a long wait to get word, and rife confusion where some where told their loved ones had died when they were in fact alive, or worse, that they were alive when they were actually dead. But for all the despair, there were fortunate reunions, husbands and wives, and two brothers in the crew. And of course bittersweet moments where some, but not all, of a family survived, or one person surviving where a companion perished. Despite the tragedy and some British strategists' beliefs that the 100+ deaths of American citizens would drive the country out of its isolationism, it would be years yet before America entered the war. Regardless, the sinking of the Lusitania was bellwether of changing norms and, when America finally did get off the fence, still something that struck the heart of the nation.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

What a Ride!

Erik Larson has done it again. I knew that the sinking of the Lusitania was one of the causes for America's entrance into WWI, but was never curious enough to find out more details. With Larson’s fascinating reenactment of all the facts, he was able to show how so many people had a unique part of the history of the tragedy of the Lusitania. Larson’s facts and anecdotes about President Wilson, Churchill, the German U20 pilot, the Lusitania capain and so many of the passengers and crew made for a full history of events. He also gave me a clear view of life in 1915.

Larson has done this brilliant re-telling before with his many history books of which “The Devil in the White City” is my favorite. If you have any interest in history, be sure to get this audiobook. I enjoyed it immensely.

39 of 48 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Another fascinating non-fiction story from Larson

Not as good as Devil in the White City, but also very good.....a fascinating look at WW I on the seas, with U-boats plying the seas around the UK and making it difficult for allied ships. Well written as well as interesting, Larson writes a very readable style.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Larson writes history that reads like fiction

But it's not fiction. I wasn't sure I'd be interested in the Lusitania, but but I enjoyed Larson's other books so much, I thought "he might be able to do this one". I wasn't disappointed. From the logs of the U boat captain, British naval and government records, and diaries and statements of passengers, Larson weaves a narrative that reads as easily as good fiction. I put him in the category of Doris Kearns Goodman and Laura Hillenbrand.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Superb story teller

Where does Dead Wake rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

I only read Non Fiction. This book is one of the better books I have read about a historical subject matter.

Who was your favorite character and why?

No particular character was a favorite. It was just the overall book.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes, and I did it was that good.

Any additional comments?

This is not dry reading. I felt like it was story hour. It reminded me of how glued I was as little kid when my mother would read me a really good story. Larson lays out all the information and historical facts surrounding the Lusitania. The facts are interesting, some I did not already know about the Lusitania.

35 of 48 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

U-Boats. Sinister. Fascinating

I am a 33 year old male without formal education. I adore history books if the story holds my attention, but I'm usually a fiction reader. Dead Wake got me off good!!!!

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Fascinating, haunting

Yet another extraordinary Erik Larson book that proves that history can be as dramatically riveting as any work of fiction, especially in the hands of a brilliant storyteller. I've not been a Scott Brick fan in the past, but he does a fine, understated reading here. This is on par with Larson's best previous work (Devil in the White City, In the Garden of the Beasts). Well worth the credit!

14 of 19 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Masterpiece

Erik Larson gives a whole new meaning and excitement to the term "non-fiction". He and Scott Brick are a dynamic duo. I have learned so much history and have been spellbound by Larson's writing. School students would be a whole lot more enamored by important segments of history if Larson was required reading...in history, as well as literature classes!
I am a fairly well educated person, but "the Lusitania" never took on the true relevance of it's impact on history, for me, until now. Audible readers do yourselves an injustice if you pass this by!!

6 of 8 people found this review helpful