Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Review of Blizzard of Glass: The Halifax Explosion of 1917 by Sally M Walker (2011, Henry Holt)

On December 6, 1917 two ships collided in Halifax Harbour, Nova Scotia.  One ship was full of munitions, the other with relief supplies.  The result of the collision was the munition ship catching fire.  While the crew rowed away as fast as they could, the ship drifted to Pier 6 in Halifax, attracting a crowd of onlookers.  A short while later the ship exploded, creating the largest man-made explosion prior to Hirosoma, flattening the two towns of Halifax and Dartmouth, first through the shockwave, then a tsunami, killing nearly 2,000 people, and shattering windows over thirty miles away.  As the relief effort started, the following day a blizzard swept in dumping more than a foot of snow.  Isolated, their infrastructure shattered, and families devastated, the town stuggles to cope the scale of the disaster.

I bought Blizzard of Glass online since I was travelling to Halifax.  I’d heard about the explosion of 1917 and thought I’d try and learn more before I arrived.  What I hadn’t appreciated was that it was a history book for kids.  It’s a well written book that blends a straight historical narrative with the personal story of a handful of families.  It provides a basic overview of the disaster and its consequences.  For kids, it’s great.  However, I wanted a much more in-depth analysis of the lead-up, the accident and explosion, and the effects and blame game.  Basically, the book was way too thin for what I was after. Overall, then, good for what it is, but not quite what I was looking for (and my rating is based on what it is).

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