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Dead Wake; the Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

Dead Wake; the Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

A Gripping True Tale

A century ago, 1915, Europe was at war.  Britannia still ruled the waves, but German submarine warfare was nibbling away rapidly and heartlessly at England’s maritime supremacy.  At first the German U-boats targeted military and cargo vessels, but passenger ships soon became fair game.  Then ships from neutral countries were fair game.  U-boat captains – most of which were in their twenties or thirties – had total control over their actions while at sea, and elevating their reputations and advancing their careers was measured in terms of the tonnage they managed to sink.   The most successful submarine crews and captain were usually pretty ruthless and often made the least possible effort to minimize human loss. 

Britain, on the other hand, was apparently eager to draw neutral U.S. into their war, and probably didn’t do much to warn ships with U.S. citizens and cargo about impending danger.  Certainly, they didn’t do much to help the Lusitania.

A confluence of circumstances including the ones mentioned above – added to by good luck, bad luck, poorly organized emergency plans, inadequate lifeboats, smugness, and a several of other circumstances led to the sinking of the largest passenger ship in the Cunard line, the (supposedly) unsinkable Lusitania.  Yet, in May 2015, the Lusitania and its somewhere around 2,000 passengers and crew were sunk within about 15 minutes of being hit by a single torpedo.   More than half of them perished.  Among them were many Americans. 

The great thing about this story is the way Larson puts it together.  We all know what’s going to happen to the Lusitania, so this piece of history could be fairly dry despite all of his research on times, dates, maritime factoids, naval strategy, and so forth.  Larson populates this story from the very first with real people – people who made that fateful journey on the Lusitania.  We learn their names, their circumstances, their backgrounds, their personal troubles and joys.  Larson puts a human face on this story which makes it gripping, suspenseful, and harrowing as any tragic adventure story in fiction.   And he adds the political backdrop in which this disaster took place, introducing us to the recently widowed U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, his personal life, his passions, and his challenges as a world leader.

One thing about Larson’s research sides against some of the theorists who over time have insisted that the Lusitania would not have experienced more than one explosion (1 torpedo = 1 explosion) had it not been carrying munitions for Britain in its cargo hold.  (Turns out that wasn’t the cause of the second explosion.)  I always love it when someone debunks a long and widely held theory, and Larson doesn’t disappoint!

Don’t miss this great read!   And please note:  The Literary Circle will discuss this book at its gathering on Monday, September 26, 6:30 p.m.


Nora Webster by Colm Toibin

Nora Webster by Colm Toibin

A Widow with a Will

Colm Toíbín’s Nora Webster is set in a small Irish community in the early 1970s.  Nora’s beloved husband, Maurice, has recently died, and she is left to grieve while coping with the challenges of raising children, worrying about money, and finding a way to accept her new life alone.  With few exceptions, the neighbors are kind, solicitous, and concerned about Nora, but she regards them as unhelpful intruders.  Over and over, Nora makes decisions to move her life forward, and then second-guesses herself.  Indeed many of her decisions are not good ones, and it is not helpful that she tends to make them without input from her children.  She doesn’t really know how to share her concerns with her children or to help them with their own grief, and they all begin to mistrust her on one level or another.  This difficult family dynamic seems to be an already familiar one for Nora’s siblings - apparently she thought she escaped their stifling family concern when she married Maurice, and here they are again. Too much In her life; too much in her business.  While Nora often seems uncertain, and even a bit helpless, she has a good deal of backbone and determination when she knows exactly what she wants. 

There are many mini-climatic moments in the story that turn out to go nowhere, as the action, such as it is, and the narrative all plays out in Nora’s head.  And because there isn’t a lot of descriptive writing or action to move the story forward, this novel seems to be more of a psychological study.  

Book groups:  put this one on your list!  There’s much to discuss. 

Teen Video Game Club

Teen Video Game Club

Wednesdays, 2-4 pm

Teen Gaming Club is back! We have our three gaming systems: Wii, XBOX 360, and Playstation 3, as well as tables set up in the back for your RPG playing pleasure.


When: Wednesdays

Time: 2:00 pm

Where: The Community Room

Who: High School and Middle School aged students



Questions? E-mail Eboni: or call at 831-646-2094


Dr. Susan Shillinglaw To Read and Discuss Mexican Short Stories

Saturday, September 17, 1 p.m.

August 28, 2016
Media Contact:  Jeanne McCombs
Monterey Public Library, Monterey, California
(831) 646-3949  /


The Monterey Public Library, in collaboration with the National Steinbeck Center, will present Dr. Susan Shillinglaw discussing The Big Read selection, Sun Stone and Shadows; 20 Great Mexican Short Stories by Jorge F. Hernandez, on Saturday, September 17, at 1 p.m., in the Library Community Room.  Adults are invited to attend.  No reservations are necessary.  The Library is located at 625 Pacific Street, Monterey.  For more information call (831) 646-3933.

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Teen Chef

Teen Chef

Thursday, September 1, 3:15 p.m.

It's after school time and you're starving. Well, guess what? The Library has food. You just have to make it yourself. Come in and learn the recipe for the snack of the month, and then attempt to make it. Eat your successes and failures while watching a movie in the Community Room.


This month we are making ICE CREAM.


When: September 1, 2016

Time:   3:15 pm

Where: The Community Room

Who:  Middle and High School Students



Questions? E-mail Eboni: or call at 831-646-2094