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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Barometer Rising

by Hugh MacLennan

I have been typing and retyping this first sentence and I'm still not sure where to begin. This book is a masterpiece, worthy to be called a classic. MacLennan's writing is smooth and descriptive. I have no desires to be a writer but for those who do, this would make an excellent study. Not only does Maclennan do a examplary job of writing, the story is taut and compelling.

Barometer is set in Halifax, Nova Scotia during WWI. The book encompasses only eight days during the first part of December in 1917. There was a wonderful sense of place, so much so that I could feel the damp coldness, picture the overcast grey sky and hear the boats churning in the bay. The pace of the story continues to build towards the real life catastrophic explosion that occurred in the bay and had such a devastating effect on Halifax.

The story centers on Penelope Wain who believes her lover, Neil Macrae, has been killed by enemy fire shortly after being placed under court martial. Macrae's commanding officer was Penelope's father. In the two years Macrae was away Penelope has gained respect as a talented ship designer. And she has received a proposal of marriage from another soldier who served in the war in her father's squadron.

The main characters and supporting cast are so well depicted. Each seems like a real person with weaknesses, worries and strengths. MacLennan writes some of the best dialog I've ever read.

I highly recommend this book. One of my favorite quotes is from the man Macrae is depending on to clear his name of a military charge of insubordination.
"I do not understand very much, but I always have known what it is I have to do next, and if I lose the job at Wain's there will be another one somewhere else. We are told thea the Lord will provide, and there would be no use whatever in going to church if a man cannont believe a thing as easy as that."

15 comments:

Framed said...

Wow, what a glowing review. I may have to borrow this one from you. And I really need another book to read :D

Literary Feline said...

This does sound good! Off to add it to my wishlist. Great review, by the way.

jenclair said...

Books that make this much of an impression are rare. I'm adding it to my wishlist, too. Great review, Cheya.

Joy said...

You made this title/author very enticing! More to explore...woo hoo! Thank you. :)

heather (errantdreams) said...

Sounds like quite an unusual and interesting read!

Orange Blossom Goddess (aka Heather) said...

This sounds really good! Thanks for the review!

Nicola said...

This sounds really good. I've only read Two Solitudes and that was eons ago.

raidergirl3 said...

I remember loving this book a few years ago. I'm so glad you enjoyed it and you wrote a great review.
Every December 6th, the people of Nova Scotia send a huge Christmas tree to the people of Boston, in thanks for all the help provided after the Halifax Explosion. I'm pretty sure it was the largest manmade explosion until Hiroshima.
Did I mention I like trivia?

Robin said...

How nice! An author and book I've never heard of, and it sounds so good I've put it on my TBR list. Thanks!

Lotus Reads said...

Booklogged, if you recommend this book so highly I will definitely have to put it on my wishlist. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Les said...

I'll echo everyone's thoughts and say this sounds like a great book. Thanks for a lovely review! You know, you could be a writer, if you wished. This truly was a remarkable review.

Chris said...

I can't believe I haven't read this yet.

Marty Jukovsky said...

I agree completely. MacLennan's descriptions of the catastrophe are masterful. I also highly recommend his later novel, The Watch That Ends the Night, which takes place in Montreal in the fifties. How unfortunate that readers in the U.S. take little note of MacLennan.

razors.edge7 said...

I found this book extremely boring and pretty stupid and I usually love reading and the Halifax Explosion. But this was just dull. I would have burned the book if I didn't have to finish the bloody book for school -_-

NeverLift said...

I first read this book as part of our high school curriculum in Winnipeg, Canada, almost 60 years ago, and my mind still holds the vivid images of the paths of destruction created by the Halifax explosion that it conjured up for me. razors.edge7, as a reviewer and critic of literature, you make a fine cinder block.