I do not read war stories, despite proudly supporting Canadian work and nearly gave “<b>Barometer Rising</b>” five stars. That tells you this is one special novel. I became informed about “The Halifax Explosion” a few years ago; the worst in history. This is an opportunity to read a re-enactment. not merely a write-up, from <b>Hugh MacLennan</b>, who was there. December 6, 2017 has just made it 100 years ago!
A small quibble: characters received first name basis except Geoffrey Wain and Angus Murray. “Said” is in error, when dialogue poses a question. What dipped my appreciation to four stars, is skipping the most gratifying part we were awaiting! Neil Macrae, accused of refusing an order that threw a battle in France, is back. That is not a mystery to key people for long. What we anticipate is his reaction to someone. The revelation does not occur and on his way to be surprised by them, <b>Hugh</b> thought it sufficient to close the novel! He wrote a two-chapter play by play of the explosion but did not show us the happy reward! A downgrade to four stars also honours a horse, whom Neil did not assist out of the snow!
I was impressed otherwise. Imagine, a woman making headlines as a ship-building engineer in 1917 and shown as composedly-intelligent and confident, in a 1941 novel! Her aunt Mary is a dear woman. Even the aunt by marriage, who was judgemental and prickly, found her element when their house was needed as a hospital. Penny is understandably anxious about everything coming out well with Neil. Everyone, except her father and his sense of entitlement, bolsters their city in dangerous days. The feeling of WWI in Canada and Halifax's unique position, as a seaport vital to Britain, are of course revelations to me.