“Car ride! We’re goin’ for a car ride!!”
Wait. We’re not goin’ for a car ride, Mom? Whaddya mean, “Travel by book?” To where? Can I come? Is there food?
Kimber here. Mom says it’s all aboard for two nifty travel-ish tomes she recently read. One takes us aboard a humongous passenger ship making the New York to England crossing in 1915. (I’d bring a really, really good life jacket ‘fize you.) It’s called Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania. The other.is a pert and pretty “travel memoir” about traveling with youngun’s, Passports and Pacifiers: Traveling the World One Tantrum at a Time.
So. All aboard! Let’s go!
By Erik Larson
If the brief paragraph you read about the sinking of the Lusitania in your high school history class seemed open and shut, think again.
A Big Read
In this prodigious, scholarly tome, author Erik Larson carefully, methodically, and meticulously chronicles the last voyage of this immense ship and the lives of its crew, passengers, the German U-Boat that sank it, and pretty much everyone on the planet. Ditto a myriad of additional factors and international intrigues that were in play in this terrible tragedy.
Indeed, Dead Wake is a big read. You may want to take a deep breath for this one.
It’s a ponderous work chockfull of details, details, and more details. About the ship. The crew. Captain Turner. The Cunard lines. Winston Churchill, the Admiralty Office, and the mysterious “Room 40.” Woodrow Wilson and Edith Galt. The U-boat commander, Walther Schweiger. The weather. Fog. Speed. Portholes. Boiler rooms. Coal. Lunch menus.
It includes descriptions galore. Everything from passengers’ hats, gowns, and luggage to the wall colors and carpet of the ladies’ on-board reading room and the walnut-paneled men’s smoking room. Also the “Niagara falls of water” raised by the ship’s giant propellers as they churned into maximum speed.
In the Way
And that’s just for starters. The details about people we don’t know and probably don’t care about are so many, in fact, that they tend to get in the way of the rest of the story.
In fact, the book could be divided into two parts: Pre-Torpedo and Post-Torpedo. The first part lasts until about page 237 and can be as dry as the Atacama Desert. It moves at a snail’s pace. Or like a submerged German U-boat.
The second part picks up speed fast. It adeptly tucks in the tails of the many people aboard this floating city and what happened to them, post-disaster. Captain Schweiger’s perspective is also included, based on his own log and other first-hand documents.
History buffs will likely find Dead Wake a treasure trove of epic proportions. It brings a whole new meaning to the word “thorough” and may emerge as the definitive history of the Lusitania tragedy.
Unfortunately, casual readers may feel overwhelmed by the amount of detail in this book, which sometimes moves with the alacrity of a three-toed sloth. Indeed, mere mortals may find it a top-heavy sail as it cruises through waters dense with loquacious cargo.
Our Rating: 3.0
By Kaitlyn Jain
Writing an engaging, original travel memoir is a challenge. Unless you’re a president, a pope, or a pop star, nobody really cares what you did on your summer vacation. Or about the time you tossed your breakfast overboard in Costa Rica. Or how much gelato you scarfed down in Rome. Except maybe your mom. So how do you engage your audience? What can you offer that’ll make the read worthwhile and unique?
Author Kaitlyn Jain tackles this challenge in Pacifiers and Passports. Based on her experiences traveling with young children to Italy and Scandinavia, this brisk, often funny tome offers an honest look at the unique joys and difficulties of traveling with young children, including a Never Sleep baby and an Ever Hungry husband. Here’s the book trailer.
Our children are grown. So this book didn’t keep my interest. (That president/pope/pop star thing.) Also, initial chapters wander down too many pre-kid bunny trails too often, making for a somewhat confusing read with a muddled timeline.
However, this book’s target audience will find it entertaining and worthwhile. Pacifiers combines rich descriptions with vivid word pictures to pour out a plethora of “kid tested, mother approved” advice and practical tips for traveling with little ones. It’s a gentle, engaging read that will benefit any parent considering traveling the world to kid choruses of “Are we there yet?”
Our Rating: 3.5