Thursday, July 3, 2008

Rising Tide

Wow, what a book. My understanding of New Orleans and our country just doubled. Author John Barry is ambitious as hell in his portrait of the South. The grand scope of this book envelopes personalities and politics from over a century and stretches from Louisiana to Washington. The flood of 1927 proves to be a great tool for examining the era of industrialism can-do, lingering racial tensions after Reconstruction, and the corrupt power politics of the moneyed South.

I have read John Barry before. His book The Great Influenza is an equally impressive examination of an American catastrophe. He does an excellent job of developing the characters in both works. That is probably the greatest strength of his writing, that the reader feels he is listening to a story about somebody he knows intimately. It is like watching a baseball game and your best friend is pitching.

After giving life to the major participants, Barry lets them loose in the midst of critical events in our nation's history. Undeniably important, for some reason the Great Influenza and the flood of 1927 aren't part of our collective memory. They should be. Or perhaps it is just Barry's writing that carries such weight. A good storyteller can make all the difference. Either way, Rising Tide is a can't miss for all the non-fiction junkies.

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