July 10, 2015

Review | Lusitania: Triumph, Tragedy and the End of the Edwardian Era by Greg King and Penny Wilson

Title: Lusitania: Triumph, Tragedy, and the End of the Edwardian Era

Author: Greg King and Penny Wilson
Publication Date: February 2015
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Source & Format: Library; hardcover
Lusitania: She was a ship of dreams, carrying millionaires and aristocrats, actresses and impresarios, writers and suffragettes – a microcosm of the last years of the waning Edwardian Era and the coming influences of the Twentieth Century. When she left New York on her final voyage, she sailed from the New World to the Old; yet an encounter with the machinery of the New World, in the form of a primitive German U-Boat, sent her – and her gilded passengers – to their tragic deaths and opened up a new era of indiscriminate warfare.

A hundred years after her sinking, Lusitania remains an evocative ship of mystery. Was she carrying munitions that exploded? Did Winston Churchill engineer a conspiracy that doomed the liner? Lost amid these tangled skeins is the romantic, vibrant, and finally heartrending tale of the passengers who sailed aboard her. Lives, relationships, and marriages ended in the icy waters off the Irish Sea; those who survived were left haunted and plagued with guilt. Now, authors Greg King and Penny Wilson resurrect this lost, glittering world to show the golden age of travel and illuminate the most prominent of Lusitania’s passengers. Rarely was an era so glamorous; rarely was a ship so magnificent; and rarely was the human element of tragedy so quickly lost to diplomatic maneuvers and militaristic threats.

The story of the Lusitania is a new interest for me; I have always heard the story in passing, but after reading Erik Larson’s Dead Wake, I was hooked. I found King and Wilson’s Lusitania while looking through GoodReads a few weeks ago and picked it up at the library, hoping King and Wilson’s Lusitania would share more information to fuel my latest fascination.

King and Wilson’s Lusitania focuses on a few first and second class passengers, telling their story in incredible detail. Many of these passengers I hadn’t heard about before in my reading, so that held my attention. I found it a little strange, however, that King and Wilson don’t follow a third class passenger: in fact, they rarely mention the more than 1500 people who stayed in the Lusitania‘s third class accommodations. 

I hoped for more information on the U-boat commander Schwieger, but this nonfiction only devoted a chapter to the man that changed not only the course of the Lusitania‘s history, but the rules of warfare in general. For a man who had such an impact on so many lives, I found it a little strange that he was portrayed as a minor character. 

After the boat sails, the narration was strong and engaging: King and Wilson follow the chronological order of the ship’s last voyage. The order before was a little confusing: the narration bounced back and forth between the past and the time on the dock without a clear train of thought. Not a big deal, but was a little hard to follow at times.

In the end, Lusitania was an okay read. It wasn’t bad by any means, but I found myself yearning for more information, for more details on the passengers…just more. 


Posted July 10, 2015 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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