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."