Thursday, March 5, 2009

Cannonball Read #14: Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy by Diana Preston

Hang on, folks. I promise you I'm almost done with non-fiction maritime disasters...actually, I AM done with the reading, but I'm just a little behind on the blogging.

Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy details the sinking of the British passenger ship Lusitania by German torpedo during WWI. The great thing is, the author gets very deep into the contextual circumstances surrounding the sinking, particularly the political climate at the time and use of (at the time) newly-emerging submarine technology. I will admit that I know next to nothing about WWI--in public school social studies, it's that short chapter smushed in between the Civil War and WWII...as I remember it, "somebody assassinated somebody else's archduke for some reason and then Germany got all crazy, and then eventually we won. Somehow the British were involved, the French not so much. The helmets looked like plates." Although the book is focused on the actual attack on and sinking of the Lusitania, Preston continues on to explain how the event was viewed on both sides of the conflict, and how both tried to spin the tragedy to their benefit and get the US to officially choose a side.

The book is obviously well-researched, and for the most part compelling, although the story doesn't end so much as dribble out for 50 pages. There were many characters to keep track of, which I found difficult at some points, but there are some excellent primary accounts as well as a number of helpful photographs, maps, and diagrams.

The book is rather heavy reading, but anyone who is interested in the history of the period, it's pretty excellent.

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