SOS Lusitania

Author: Kevin Kiely

Publication Date: 2013
Publisher: O’Brien Press
ISBN: 13 978-1-84717-230-3
Pages: 256
Price: €7.99 
Age Group: 10+ 

Summary from O’Brien Press
Thirteen-year-old Finbar Kennedy runs away from home in Queenstown (Cobh) to follow his sea-captain father onto the Lusitania. On the return journey from New York, Finbar works as a deck-hand, and running messages gives him a lot of information. He begins to understand that something strange is happening. But what can he do? And whom can he trust?

Fact is stranger than fiction: In May 1915 the huge liner, the Lusitania, sank off the Cork coast near the Old Head of Kinsale. This happened during the First World War. But, unlike the Titanic tragedy, this was no accident. The ship was torpedoed by a German submarine. Rumour had it that there were spies, arms and gold on board the Lusitania. These rumours were true.


My Review

Kevin Kiely manages to capture the essence of the early 1900s using subtle apt language, home life and innocence. Our main character is thirteen years of age and he decides to run away to sea after being told that he is the man of the house. The innocence of Finny adds to the story, especially when he meets Penny and their scene of pending adventure and possible spy’s and doom.

Finbar, or Finny as he is know, dreams of a submarine sinking a ship. He fears it’s the ship his dad works as staff captain, that, coupled with worry for money worries and wanting to be the man his dad claimed him to be result in Finny becoming a stowaway.

Kiely uses genius foreshadowing in this plot to build suspense and hope. We experience the sea journey and feel the dread as the Lusitania realise they may have been set up.



Our heart strings are pulled on in the climatic wreckage of the Lusitania and the possible death of our main character. Despite this book being based on factual historical events, this fictional reworking is intriguing and fleshes out a past event.

 Kielys book would be perfect as a class novel, it could be integrated into history so easily and it is a book that children would enjoy. Saying that, it would suit young and old in any setting, be it at home or school.

Thank you to O’Brien Press for the PBB.

Published by Michelle Moloney King

Bookish and paintish! Mother, wife, teacher, and follower of flow.

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