I personally enjoy books such as this one by Erik Larson because I not only learn about a significant historical event, but the background leading up to it and what else was going on in the world at the time. Bill Bryson (e.g., One Summer) is another author whose books are like that. I had recently written an article about the historic 1900 Galveston hurricane, but this book made it come alive even more for me.
The “Isaac” in the title refers to Isaac Cline, a sometimes arrogant scientist who thought he “knew it all” – but then again, the Weather Bureau seemed to be full of those kind of folks. In 1891 he had made a statement regarding hurricanes and their potential to reach the Texas coast: “West Indies hurricanes are not a problem for Texas because they always recurve to the north before reaching the Western Gulf of Mexico.” He was the meteorologist on duty in Galveston on September 8, 1900.
Near the turn of the century, Galveston had grown to a population of over forty thousand and was well on its way to becoming a major United States port. Indeed, Galveston had benefited from the so-called “Gilded Age” – a period of rapid economic growth and burgeoning industrialization. Larson not only narrates the story of the frightening and monstrous storm, but the events leading up to the event.
Most people seemed to be rather passè about the weather, and that day the beach was crowded with both residents and tourists – all unaware of the storm that would indelibly change their lives. The book also relates the stories of other Galveston residents and the impact of the storm on their lives.
It seemed to me that Larson told a well-crafted and even-handed story (although some reviewers and critics disagree) – some have demonized Isaac Cline and some (including Isaac himself) have characterized him as being “saint-like”, trying to warn the people after he discovered that a storm was upon the city.
If you’re interested in historical disasters, and especially epic weather events, then I believe you will find this an interesting read.
Have a GREAT day . . . someday it will be HISTORY!
© Sharon Hall (Digging History), 2014.