Saturday, November 11, 2017

A Blinding Light by Julie Lawson

The biggest explosion of the pre-atomic age, a catastrophe of almost 
biblical proportions

I just spent four very cold days in Vancouver so I headed for a bookshop downtown.  Browsing the shelves I looked for a Canadian book and found A Blinding Light.  This book was a perfect book for me in several ways.  I had just been visiting Victoria on Vancouver Island and this is where Julie Lawson lives.  I have visited Halifax twice in recent years and A Blinding Light is set in Halifax during a major historical incident from 1917.  Knowing the layout of the city helped me to visualize many of the important scenes.  This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Halifax explosion which happened on 6th December, 1917.  I did not know anything about this event until I read this book.

Will and his sister live in Halifax which is a busy sea port during the turmoil of World War I ships travel across the Atlantic ocean to war torn Europe.  Two ships collide in the harbour, one is filled with a "lethal assortment of explosives."  Over 2000 people were killed, 9000 people were injured and 6000 people were left homeless but these are just statistics.  A Blinding Light gives this enormous destruction a human face.  Will is a witness to the events and Livy is caught inside a house which collapses.  Their mother is badly hurt while out doing her charity work and it seems everything in their lives and in the lives of those associated with their family will now change in ways no one would have imagined.

You can read more about the inspiration for this story on the author web site.   Here is a review with more details of the plot.

Here is a short film which explains these events.  Julie Lawson has also written No Safe Harbour - the Halifax Explosion - the Diary of Charlotte Blackburn for the Dear Canada series.  Readers who enjoy historical fiction and who want to learn more about events in other parts of the world will enjoy A Blinding Light which is also available as an ebook.

The town was literally ablaze, the dry dock and dockyard buildings completely demolished and everywhere wounded and dead. The theatres and suitable buildings were all turned into hospitals or shelters for the accommodation of the homeless. Naval and Military pickets were patrolling the streets endeavouring to keep order. Poor little kiddies homeless, their parents having perished, were crying piteously and anxious relatives were inquiring for their dear ones.”  From the Diary of Frank Baker sailor 1917.

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