Barometer rising by Hugh MacLennan
New York : Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1941. First edition. Hardcover. 326 pages ; 21 cm. $2.50 dust jacket. A few chips and tears to dust jacket edges. Small dime size stain at center edge of page 286 through page 296. Pages toned. Binding is firm. No markings to pages.
A Novel of Halifax in War Time
By HUGH MacLENNAN
BETWEEN wars, Halifax in Nova Scotia sleeps in relative commercial quiet. Its narrow streets, its Old World architecture, and tempo, its citadel and garrison, make it an epitome of the small English colonial city. But in war time Halifax stirs to magnificent activity. The railroads which link the oceans and Canada's vast resources bring men, munitions, supplies of every kind, to its matchless harbor for transshipment to the mother country. Convoys are assembled, silently depart under sealed orders. The streets are thronged with soldiers. The story here told so vividly of eight fateful days in December, 1917, gives, for the first time in fiction, a picture of that almost incredibly tense activity which is being re-enacted today.
Barometer Rising is a first published novel. As the sure skill and the narrative pace reveal, it is the work of no untrained writer. Hugh MacLennan, a Nova Scotian, made certain of his craft before he began to write this story of Canada in war time and of the great explosion which all but destroyed Halifax when the freighter Mont Blanc, loaded to the Plimsoll with T.N.T. and picric acid, was rammed by the Belgian relief ship, Imo.
Against the background of this high and historic drama is told the love story of Penelope Wain, daughter of an old Nova Scotia family, and of Neil Macrae, who fought gallantly in France but who returned under suspicion. The reality of MacLennan's characterizations, his ear for dialogue, his sense of structure, make Barometer Rising as satisfying as it is exciting and timely.
"I was born in 1907 in the colliery district of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, where my father was a company doctor. We moved to Halifax at the beginning of the last war and so I was there at the time of the explosion in 1917. My father had been overseas in the Army Medical Corps and had been invalided home just before the explosion occurred. During the week following the disaster he was operating constantly and was hardly ever out of the hospital or off his feet.
"My school was the Halifax Academy and my university Dalhousie, also in Halifax, from which I graduated with a Rhodes Scholarship representing Canada-at-large. At Oxford I was a member of Oriel College and read Classical 'Mods' and 'Greats,' my particular interest then, as now, being History.
"I went down from Oxford in the worst year a Rhodes Scholar could have picked—1932, and the depression soon deflated any illusions I may have held that a European education might be an advantage towards getting a job. But I was admitted to the Graduate College at Princeton,'where I held a fellowship, and for three years did research on the late Roman Empire, ultimately contriving to get a Ph.D. The thesis which I wrote for that degree was published last year, and I shall never again write a book with a more distinctive title . . . OXYRHYNCHUS, An Economic and Social Study.
"Since leaving Princeton I have been teaching at Lower Canada College in Montreal, and still am."
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