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Curse of the Narrows:
Assiduous research, beautiful writing, and a great talent for historical reconstruction make Laura MacDonald's Curse of the Narrows the definitive account of the Halifax explosion of December 1917. MacDonald is a master of minutia--chemistry, laws of navigation, the horrors visited on the poor people of Halifax's north end--and she writes with supreme authority and exquisite detail.
MacDonald begins her account with geography and she sets the scene by examining the bustling port of Halifax in the First World War. Using the very best recent scholarship, she then reconstructs the accident itself, describing closely the series of small errors that lead the Norwegian freighter Imo to ram into the French munitions vessel Mont Blanc in the narrows of Halifax harbor: "The Mont Blanc, with 2,925 tons of explosives, packed in hermetically sealed holds inside a super-heated hull was now the most powerful bomb the war and the world had yet produced." When it exploded, thousands of innocent people were killed in an instant. If MacDonald had limited her investigation into the causes of the accident her book would still be worth buying. She offers much more: examinations of the inquiries and court cases, the official response to the devastation, and above all the ways in which families were challenged by the appalling effects of the explosion. By tracing the struggles of these families, the Duggans, the Frasers, and the Galloways among others, MacDonald brings the scope of the tragedy home to the reader in a way that few would have believed possible. Be warned. Parts of this book are book have an impact on the reader's soul no less than the concussion of the explosion itself. This is a magnificent accomplishment. --William Newbigging [via]