Preston, Diana. Lusitania: an Epic Tragedy. New York: Walker & Company, 2002.
Reason read: on May 7th, 1915 the Lusitania was torpedoed on her 101th journey from New York to Liverpool, England. This reading is in honor of that horrific anniversary, 102 years later.
1915 – the year when everyone was in competition to see who could build the biggest, the fastest, the safest, the most stylish luxury ocean liner on the Atlantic. In the meantime, war was underway so another group was trying to build the fastest, the safest, the most stealthy and deadly underwater vessel called a U-boat. On May 7th, 1915 these two ocean vehicles would come together and make controversial history and spark one of World War I’s biggest mysteries. In 1915 the British vessel the Lusitania was the fastest passenger liner on the ocean. It was rumored to be able to outrun any U-boat enemy. However, what is fascinating about Diana Preston’s version of events is the amount of suspense she builds in the telling. I found myself questioning what I would do if I was set to board a British passenger ship, knowing full well its country was at war and the enemy had just issued a warning to passengers (to me!) stating they would attack my mode of transportation. In addition, I had options. There were neutral American boats going the same way.
I enjoyed Preston’s Lusitania so much I sought out documentaries about the May 7th, 1915 sinking to learn more.
Cache of worthless information:
- Admiral Lord John Arbuthnot “Jackie” Fisher would have been a solid contender on Dancing with the Stars.
- Admiral Lord Charles Beresford had a hunting scene tattoo across his buttocks “with the fox disappearing into the cleft” (p 19). Thank you for that image, Ms. Preston!
- Businessman Elbert Hubbard’s wife’s preoccupation with potted plants got on his nerves.
Quote to quote, “A disaster always seemed necessary to bring about safety improvements (p 59). Isn’t that always the case?
Here’s another interesting quote, “A group of bellboys had spent the night before sailing electrocuting rats…” (p 133).
But, the most devastating quote to me is, “The German government regretted that the American passengers had relied on British promises rather than heeding German warnings” (p 334).
As an aside, I enjoy when a book educates me further on things I wasn’t aware I needed to know. Reading Lusitania prompted me to look up Leonardo Da Vinci’s underwater suit. I wanted to know more about Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt. His portrayed him as a dashing man.
Author fact: There is a saying out there, “stick to what you know” and Preston certainly subscribes to that point of view. She has written four other books about the sinking of the Lusitania. None of these, nor any other Preston books, are on my Challenge list.
Book trivia: at first glance Lusitania: an epic tragedy is a hardy 438 pages long. In reality, its text is more like 380 pages once you remove all the awesome photographs, maps and diagrams. There are 80 photographs, 5 maps, 7 illustrations and 5 diagrams in total.
Nancy said: Nancy called Preston’s account “fittingly moving” (p 76).
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Dewey Deconstructed: 900s” (p 76).