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November 17, 2013 / subramanyam

“Dalhousie Burning” by Patricia Lamb Amoroso

                 Just finished reading Patricia Lamb Amoroso‘s “Dalhousie Burning”.  This  book is based on the major fire accident that happened in the small Canadian town  Dalhousie.  Though based on a  true incident that happened in the year 1930, this book is a work of fiction and the author has taken her liberties to use fictitious characters and names while reconstructing the incidents and circumstances that led to the major fire accident on 8th January 1930.

                We start the book by reading about  a seemingly minor  accident @ Duguay’s Tailor shop.  The fire that injures Duguay to begin with consumes significant portion of the town before it is brought under Control. However, before we read Dalhousie_Burning how the fire spread and how it brought down building after building, we are made to read more about Dalhousie. Patricia takes us to December 1929 and starts explaining about the Dalhousie town, the aldermen, the normal people and their lives. 

               As we go through their conversations we get to see what ails the town and how the new paper mill is almost going to be the new hope of the town.  We also get to understand a little history of Dalhousie, the advantages of that town,  the sort of businesses that thrived there and how the recession has impacted the people in the town.  Patricia also tells us about the things that ail the town’s fire department, the shortage of equipment, virtually no professional fire crew, shortage of water etc… In a way she actually prepares us for the stuff that is coming next. Real nice way to build the story, I liked it.

                As the story progresses and we get back to Jan 8th, we get to read about the great fire and the reaction of the people to it. Revealing anything further would make this review a spoiler and I urge the readers to read it directly from the book. The best part is that the reader also gets a glimpse of how resilient the people were, and how they were back to work  and built their lives again.  It also gives good insights in to the lives of people in the yesteryears and helps us understand the troubles and travails they faced while fighting disasters.

                Coming to the writing style and the pace of the book, I found it tough to complete the first 30 -40 pages of the book. However, once we are beyond page 40 the pace is fantastic and I was absorbed in the story.  Minor glitch I would say, others may or may not find this as they read the book.  The style of the narrative is good and as we get to see the perspectives of all people it would be a great reading experience.  The author uses vivid words that make paint the scenes in front of us, that’s real good.

                Writing historical fiction is not easy, a lot of effort is involved and in the end our effort might or might not appeal to the audience. Being truthful to the incident and generating audience interest is definitely a tight rope walk.  To me Patricia has done a commendable job while doing this tight rope walk.  She constructs the whole scene again and makes us feel as if we are there witnessing the accident.  Great job. Collecting the facts and presenting them is a real challenge for books of this sort, Patricia is a daughter of New Brunswick natives and this probably is the motivation for her behind attempting this humongous task. 

                This is a book worth reading for anyone who is  interested in Historical fiction, do pick it up and the time you spend reading those 155 pages is definitely worth it. 

My sincere thanks to for introducing me to the book and providing me the opportunity to write a review.


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