It took me a really long time to write this review. It could be because this book had such an effect on me when I read it for the first time over 10 years ago and I have been trying to recapture that feeling but couldn’t. This isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy reading Barometer Rising again (because I did) but I think I played up so many scenes in my mind that after I finished it this time it didn’t end the way I thought it did at all. Basically I added whole scenes in my head after MacLennan’s actual ending and was shocked to find that they weren’t there. This probably makes me a total weirdo. Maybe everyone does this?
Still, this is one fantastic novel and an important one if you are interested at all in Canadian Literature. I first heard about Barometer Rising in undergrad when my friend and fellow writer Graham mentioned that it was his favourite book. In fact, he loved it so much that he dreamed of turning it into a screenplay someday and making a movie out of it. From the day I finished reading it I dreamed of playing the female lead: Penelope Wain. Of course, that was over 10 years ago and while Graham is a screen writer and will probably still turn it into a film I am fast becoming a non-viable option for the intelligent, feisty, late twenties, Penelope Wain (although I have the grey streaks when I don’t colour my hair). Reading this book also made me a little obsessed with reading stories of the Halifax Explosion for a number of years. Even to this day I will read a novel just because it is set around Thursday, December 6, 1917 – and trust me, none of them are as good as Barometer Rising.
Do you see what I am doing here? I’m talking about myself instead of the book because I just can’t put into words what it means to me. Basically I want everyone to go out and read it. So go – go read it and then come back and we can talk about it and then maybe I can articulate how I feel. I might even tell you about the missing ending that has only existed in my mind for the last decade. Trust me, it’s a good one.
Death Toll: The Mont Blanc explosion reportedly killed 1,600 people. In the novel many characters die – how could they not? The novel is, after all, about a horrific event.