Skip to main content

Cannonball Read #29: Curse of the Narrows: The Halifax Explosion 1917 by Laura M. MacDonald

I didn't really know much about the Halifax explosion at all before reading this book--all I knew was that every year, the people of Nova Scotia send the people of Boston a giant-ass Christmas tree, which we put up on the Common to ooh and ahh over. This informative little piece of literature definitely will make me think next Christmas as I grumble about the traffic jam caused by the tree-lighting ceremony.

In 1917, Halifax NS was a hub of military activity. Many American and Canadian ships leaving for the war in Europe would make Halifax their final destination before departure. There was a thriving economy and a uniquely protected harbor that seemed safe from both weather and enemy submarines. On December 6, a series of errors would lead to a collision between two ships--one a munitions ship stuffed to the brim with TNT, picric acid, and several other high explosives--and the resulting explosion would destroy Halifax and neighboring Dartmouth, killing more than a thousand people and wounding nearly twice that number.

Laura MacDonald's book is obviously carefully researched, and having grown up in the area she has a special perspective on the character of the local people. She starts out by setting the scene, giving some background on the city and introducing the reader to some of the main players. She goes on to describe the events that led to the explosion and everything that came after, including a fairly extensive section on the relief efforts, particularly those taken on by the people of Massachusetts.

It's interesting to read about how this disaster led to changes in how major cities prepared for situations of this nature, and also how this effected the efforts and training of the (at the time) newly formed Red Cross. Also, the resulting changes in medical science--specifically the idea that pediatric surgery was different and required a different skill set than adult surgery (Dr. Ladd, a preeminent Boston surgeon would return from Halifax and put his efforts into creating the pediatric surgical unit at Children's Hospital, which now has a chair named in his honor.)

In all, Curse of the Narrows is a very detailed and very well-written book about an historical event nearly forgotten. I'd recommend it to anyone interested in turn-of-the-century history.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

CR3 # 17: Mount Misery by Samuel Shem

Mount Misery is the sequel to Samuel Shem's first book, House of God (review here). It follows Dr. Roy Basch as he leaves the House of God and moves to psychiatric hospital Mount Misery to begin his psychiatric residency. Unfortunately, it turns out that psychiatrists are just as crazy, confused, and often detrimental as medical doctors. As Dr. Basch cycles through the various sectors of the hospital (talk therapy, admissions, Freudian Analysis, drug therapy) he is horrified to discover that it seems everything he is being taught is not only wrong, but potentially dangerous. He begins to fall into terrible patterns of behavior, mirroring the problems his patients are having. Each area is worse than the last, with one doctor who thinks the best way to treat is to be aggressively hostile, one who cares only about insurance premiums and efficiency, one who treats with silence and "regression," and one who thinks the only viable treatment is to pump every patient full of exp…

CBR9 #2 - Southern Gods

I've had Southern Gods on my TBR list for so long I no longer remember why I put it there. Was it a recommendation from Amazon? From Goodreads? Did someone I know recommend it? Did it cross my path as a "If you liked __________ then you'll like this too!"

Maybe I heard it through the grapevine?

I only know that recently, I happened to come across it on my wishlist and decided to go ahead and splurge on it.

I'm glad I did.

In 1951 Memphis, war veteran and leg-breaker-for-hire Bull Ingraham gets a new assignment: a record company has lost one of their employees somewhere. Early Freeman set off to deliver new records to radio stations, and has seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth. His boss at Helios Records is anxious to find him...and also anxious to find a mysterious blues musician whose music can do terrible things to the living -- and to the dead.

Meanwhile, in Arkansas, Sarah Rheinhart leaves her abusive husband and returns to her family home, where …

CBR9 #5 Borgin Keep by Ron Ripley

I've read the entire Berkeley Street series, as well as the Haunted series, and I think this was definitely one of the better offerings. This time, former Marine Shane and his slowly growing band of willing (and unwilling) ghost hunting allies face their biggest challenge yet. While the ghosts of Borgin Keep are both very dangerous and very evil, Shane also must keep one step ahead of The Watchers, a ruthless and powerful organization who find him to be a threat to their shadowy goals.

As always, for me the best part are the characters. Shane and his ghost-hunting partner Frank (a former soldier/former monk) are joined once again by police detective Marie LaFontaine, who is a very tough woman determined to avenge a dead friend. I'm not as fond of Shane's girlfriend Courtney, but I understand her uses as far as character development.

The plot moves along quickly, and I found this book a little better fleshed out than a few of the previous ones in the series -- while I enjoye…