I love everything that Erik Larson has written. I usually read them, but I went with the audiobook version for this one. It took me an entire year to get through – but that was no fault of the book. You see, I like happy endings. The ending here is no surprise, and I stopped listening to this one when it reached the last morning of the voyage. I just couldn’t do it.
Then, I found myself on a long solo car trip with my small children this summer. No offense to the narrator, but there is nothing quite like a historical audiobook to put the kids right to sleep. Or so I thought. Suddenly from the back seat I hear a, “Mommy, did the ship sink?” So, now my 3 year old also knows the fate of the Lusitania. (That question was followed up with a “Is the boat under water? Are the people under water?” Argh! Not a conversation I was prepared for).
If you’re emotional like I am this is not a good book to listen to while driving. Larson is SO good at humanizing historical events and I found myself sobbing so hard that I had trouble seeing the road. There are many children in peril, and the descriptions of their little bodies was more than I could handle. It was an excellent book, and I loved how he interspersed the major politics at play with the individual personal stories.
One of the best parts of this book was the reminder of how many things happen in a person’s lifetime. When studying historical events often get categorized on their own, without seeing what has happened with the people involved either before or after. It was a great reminder that these passengers had seen the sinking of the Titanic just a couple years before, and was very fresh in their minds. Also, the role that Winston Churchill played. In my mind (and presumably many others) Churchill is always associated with WWII. And, because I’m not really in to military history I haven’t studied him individually. You never really hear about his earlier experiences and career that led him to Prime Minister. This glimpse at his career with the Admiralty, and some of his decisions there, really shed a light on things later in his life.
In conclusion – this was excellent, as always, and I’m really looking forward to Larson’s next book.