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Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating details ·  557 Ratings  ·  78 Reviews
On May 7, 1915, toward the end of her 101st eastbound crossing, from New York to Liverpool, England, R.M.S. Lusitania-- pride of the Cunard Line and one of the greatest ocean liners afloat-- became the target of a terrifying new weapon and a casualty of a terrible new kind of war. Sunk off the southern coast of Ireland by a torpedo fired from the German submarine U-20, she ...more
Hardcover, 544 pages
Published May 1st 2002 by Walker Books
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I first read this book five years ago. In honor of the upcoming centenary of the Lusitania's sinking, I reread it. Instead of redoing my review, or revising it, I've decided to annotate it in bold to reflect my second look, especially in light of the heavy WWI reading I've engaged in.

World War One is in many ways staggeringly complex to understand. It's a Balkan war gone bad, very bad. To get a feel for it, to understand the various ententes and alliances, you need to know a lot history. Teacher
Mar 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kindle Singles obviously vary in quality, but many of them are extremely good indeed and this is one of them. The sinking of the Lusitania in WWI had enormous repercussions; helping bring the US into the war and inflaming popular opinion against German civilians and businesses. With war on land at a stalemate by late 1914, both England and Germany looked to their navy’s to help gain an advantage. In 1915, when Germany issued a declaration stating that the water surrounding Great Britain and Irel ...more
Jan C
Oct 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wwi, water, disaster, 2016
This was fantastic. Preston follows the trail of both the Lusitania and the U-20, the submarine which attacked her on May 7, 1915. She also reviews the situation with all of the German agents in New York, there are many and they keep falling all over each other. One of my favorites is the one who left his briefcase, with all his documents, on the bus only for it to be picked up by a secret service agent who was following him. Some of them just struck me like they were the gang that couldn't shoo ...more
Jul 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We Americans tend to forget WWI. There still isn't a memorial for it in DC yet, for instance. While the Lusitania may have gotten a bump from Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, Preston's book places the sinking into the narrative of WW I. In many ways, her book is better than Larson's, though she lacks his narrative style, which is engrossing. Preston presents a more complete picture. If you liked reading Larson, you might want to give this a try.
James Burns
Jul 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Over the past 100 years there have been three ships that have sunk to the bottom of the ocean floor, for which controversy over their sinkings still exist today. Two ocean liners, The Titanic, The Lusitania, and one battleship the Bismarck. In the cases of the Titanic and the Lusitania, The actions of their captains is still in question today. The Lusitania was sunk by a German U-boat on her way to England during WW I. WWI has been overshadowed by WWII and is unfairly over looked by historians a ...more
Carolyn Harris
Jun 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
An harrowing account of the last voyage and sinking of the Lusitania in 1915, filled with evocative details that bring the passengers to life. There is a newlywed couple departing on their honeymoon who still have confetti in the folds of their clothes, children in sailor dresses who want to help the crew paint the lifeboats and a talent contest for the passengers on the last evening of the voyage. The book is difficult to put down during the scenes concerning the sinking of the ship and the res ...more
Laura Edwards
May 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
A detailed, objective and thorough history of the sinking. Part One deals with the history of U-boats and the state of the world at the beginning of WWI which proved interesting to me, but may come off as a bit of a dry read to some. Persevere. The rest of the book is quite enthralling as Preston takes the reader aboard the Lusitania on her final voyage.

The only thing missing was a list of passengers, victims and survivors, at the end, a nice sort of memoriam I have in a book about the Titanic
Mar 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
Years ago I remember reading a National Geopgraphic magazine that told all about the Lusitania. Ever since I have meant to read up on the whole story. I came across this book while I was at the library, and I couldn't put it down for two weeks. It was so surprising to hear how this one event altered history forever. Reading about how the decisions people made days before the sinking of this ship eventually impacted the outcome of WWI was both frustrating and fascinating. I kept thinking of how t ...more
Jan C
Mar 18, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: disaster, water, wwi, 2015
Actually 3 1/2 stars.

Driving me back to read the book this was derived from, Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy. Want to get back and read the real deal.

She came out with this Kindle single around the time of the anniversary, I guess. She had "what ifs" in her Epilogue. I don't really like "what ifs" because there are just too many variables. If one event changes, 1,000 unforeseen other events also change.
Jan 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Although this book took me months to read, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I remember reading about the sinking if the Lusitania 30 years ago and was eager to read the whole story. What surprised me was that it sunk shortly after the Titanic but they ran into the same problems regarding the passengers not properly prepared as well as not using all the lifeboats. I highly recommend this book if you are a history buff.
Todd Stockslager
Jun 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
I was inspired to read this book after reading Max Alan Collins' "disaster mystery" novel The Lusitania Murders, and was rewarded by a well-written history of the mystery of the disaster. The author categorizes and clearly deflates the conspiracy theories with well-reasoned and -researched arguments phrased in well-written, engrossing, and entertaining prose.
Dec 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ireland
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It covers not only the ship and her sinking, but the events leading to WWI, building submarines, and events following the sinking. Very well-researched and written, the book included information I had not read elsewhere.
Apr 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy

This book is my introduction to Diana Preston and she has caught my attention with this heavy book of sorrows.

The majority of this book is written with life woven through it. Narratives of real people come alive on the page, with pictures and their personal stories as told by themselves and by others. Unlike other books about disasters such as this, it does not follow a check-list format, but rather takes on it’s own path and makes it about the people that were involve
Apr 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really good book about the sinking of the Lusitania.

It covers a lot of ground. The strategic and tactical advantage/disadvantages of Britain and Germany and the political will behind “unrestricted submarine warfare” was particularly interesting as was the “neutral” relationship between USA and Britain. I enjoyed reading about the politics of Wilson’s administration. Also, the weakness of the Kaiser was interesting. I had thought that the Kaiser was strong and decisive. The author portrays him
Julie Means Kane
May 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This remarkable study of the sinking of the Lusitania effectively captures both the nervous gaiety of this massive ship's last voyage and the cold despair of her passengers in the waters of the Irish coast where so many met their end. In a parallel thread, author Diana Preston takes us into the cramped and musty submarine, U20, to meet her captain, Walther Schwieger, who ordered the torpedo attack.

Perhaps even more interesting to the student of the history of the Great War is Preston's analysis
Ally Kumari
Oct 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is the second book on Lusitania I have read and I suspect will be the last. The story of the sinking and the aftermath is just so depressing - and makes you in comparison realize what an organized and fairly "glamorous" the sinking of the Titanic was. Just the length (Titanic 2 hours, Lusitania 20 minutes) gives you an idea. (Naturally both the tragedies were equally as painful and I am not saying one was worse than the other when it comes to loss of life). Diana Preston gives a lot of info ...more
Jun 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Excellent source of information about WWI , U-boats and the significance of this large passenger vessel. Story of individuals on board as well.
Jun 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Extensive account of the Lusitania's last voyage, the birth and development of submarine warfare, and the interplay between the neutral US and the war-torn Allies and Germans. A really nice read.
Apr 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
While the tragedy of the sinking of the Titanic has historically received greater popular attention, the deliberate sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 as an act of war had greater consequence.

Although each resulted in a great loss of life, the Lusitania quickly came to stand for the new level of ruthlessness in war.

She was torpedoed deliberately by the German submarine U-20 which had been lying in wait for her off Ireland. Why was this, since she was a passenger liner!

Two basic reasons: the first
Sep 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps this is odd, but I find the subject of the Sinking of the Lusitania fascinating. Perhaps it is because so many people's lives were affected and lost at once, and it was interesting to see their reactions under pressure and fear of death, some were brave, some were cowardly, some were selfish and some were selfless.

Like the first book I've read on the subject, Dead Wake by Eric Larson, An Epic Tragedy: Lusitania by Diana Preston looks at many people as they travel on the Lusitania and e
Michael Bully
Aug 31, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Firmly takes the view that U20 torpedoing the luxury liner Lusitania on 8th May 1915,; 1,1918 died, including 128 US citizens was beyond the existing rules of war. ‘The Sinking of the Lusitania’ is a very useful summary of this particular stance. Also a good start on readers embarking on a study of the Lusitania controversy.

Diana Preston has written several books on the sinking of the Lusitania, ‘Wilful Murder’ (2002) is probably the best known. Answers the more controversial view of Colin Simp
Bobby D
Oct 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I read this book before I began to write reviews on Goodreads. I just read Erik Larson's book about the Lusitania called Dead Wake and in my review I mention Diana Preston and her Lusitania book. I thought it would be useful to post that review here too.

This is that review:

Erik Larson is an excellent writer and I have enjoyed reading his books but I was a bit disappointed to learn that his new book was about the sinking of the Lusitania on May 7th, 1915. The books marketing ties into the 100th A
Elspeth G. Perkin
"Many brave hearts went to sleep in the deep"

"When the Lusitania went down!"- snippets from lyrics from "When the Lusitania went down" written in 1915

Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy is an informative work that captures multiple points of interest and history regarding the sinking of the RMS Lusitania. At times harrowing and at others exhaustive but above all fascinating, as this book takes the reader back to a time of a war of nations, empires and acts of human nature and sometimes questionable respo
Emmanuel Gustin
The sinking of the Lusitania by the German U-boot U-20 in 1915 has not remained as prominent in historical memory as the loss of the Titanic. Until I read this book, it was not aware of more than the bare historical fact that this ship had been sunk during the Great War, with great loss of life. And that it had been politically significant because of the presence on board of a many US citizens, at a time when their country was neutral.

This book brings the bare historical fact to life. Perhaps a
Arvind Balasundaram
Jun 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A moving yet riveting account of the tragic sinking of the British passenger liner Lusitania by a German U-Boat off the coast of Ireland on May 7, 1915. All aspects of the dire events immediately preceding and following the torpedo strike, from the vantage point of each side, are covered in great detail. The human dimension of the horrifying experiences endured by the passengers, many of whom lost their lives, is vividly narrated by Preston, as the events unfolded in the chilly waters of the Iri ...more
'Aussie Rick'
Jun 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, naval
Diana Preston's new book covering the events leading to the sinking of the Lusitania is sure to become one of the classic accounts on the subject. From a land-lubber's point of view I found the story well researched and very well presented. I enjoyed the background information on the ship and people involved, the build up to the final voyage, the accounts of the sinking and the world-wide ramifications of the German submarine attack. I found that the authors use of first-hand accounts were well ...more
Apr 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Lovers of history

4.5 stars

"Remember the Lusitania!"

I chose to read this book in order to increase my knowledge of WW1 history, which is sorely lacking. My only recollection from high school history was that it was the sinking of the Lusitania that brought the US into the Great War. Even knowing that the ship was a passenger liner carrying people from neutral countries didn't impact me terribly significantly on an emotional level before reading Preston's account of the sinking. It is little wonder that the Allies
David Campbell
Apr 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
A superb read that encompasses every aspect of this fateful sinking... from the shipping company offices to the crew, captain, and passengers... to the captain and crew of the submarine, as well as all of the political and cultural players in the story.

It was amazing to read most of it and then lead a tour through Ireland to Cobh, where the survivors and bodies were brought ashore. I finished it on the flight home, and I cannot say enough about what a well-written book it is.
Aug 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
While the Titanic was a horrible accident and deserves the attention it gets, it does surprise me that we don't hear more about the Lusitania, also of the White Star Line, that sunk two years later during the early part of WW 1. We should in some ways make it more memorable in our history, because it was even more of a tragedy than the Titanic in that it was deliberately sunk as an act of war by a German U-Boat, even though it was known as a passenger liner. The loss of life wasn't quite as many ...more
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 I remember it ...more
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From Walker Books:

Born and raised in London, Diana Preston studied Modern History at Oxford University, where she first became involved in journalism. After earning her degree, she became a freelance writer of feature and travel articles for national UK newspapers and magazines and has subsequently reviewed books for a number of publications, including The Wall Street Journal and The Los Angeles T
More about Diana Preston

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