Brittanie's Reviews > Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History

Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson
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's review
Jan 24, 2011

liked it
Read from October 17 to November 16, 2010

Wanted to read this for a long, long time. Meant to read it during hurricane season, but better late than never.

I've come to the conclusion that I probably don't really like nonfiction books. I wasn't crazy about Devil in the White City either, in spite of the rave reviews it got. Larson does a good job of painting the image of Victorian Galveston and I liked his background into historical accounts of hurricanes long before modern science, but there were many things about this book that annoyed me.

I'm sure it has something to do with his attempt to prove authenticity of the story — Larson did use hundreds of historical documents in his research, but I find it distracting that he uses proper names for every single character he mentions. By midway through the book, I can't keep straight who each person is, what they do for a living, how they might be relevent to the story, and whether of not they'll even show up again later. Ancillary characters do not need to be named. It just confuses things. And if Larson *is* attempting to prove how authentic his account is, why does so much of what he writes seem like speculation? "Isaac probably would have ..." It got to the point where I could no longer tell where Larson was inserting his own fantasy or relying on documents to fill out the story (and yes, the book has copious footnotes, but it is insulting to image the reader of your novel is going to jump to the appendix every other paragraph to see if what you've written is based in fact or not). He also skips around quite a bit timeline-wise, which is more a pet peeve than a roadblock to the story, but while I'm nagging I might as well add it.

Finally, after all the build up to the storm, the story just drops off at the end. The novel seems so top-heavy. I wanted more post-storm resolution, either in terms of the engineering that went into Galveston (beyond the construction of the seawall), or in the form of documents from Isaac himself — journal entries, letters, whatever. You never really get a feeling for how *he* felt after the disaster.

In all, I just had the impression that Larson was trying to woo us with all his fancy research without putting a whole lot of effort into making the book interesting. It is an important part of national history that often goes overlooked, but beating people over the head with meticulousness is not going to help the story become more accessible.

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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Darcie It was a good one. A great and important part of local history.

message 2: by Anna (new) - added it

Anna Helm I agree about the flipping back and forth during Devil in the White City, and I wondered if it was only me who coudn't keep everything in order in my mind.
I kept on, though.
I spend so much time reading fiction, especially novels written for 15-year-olds, that I sometimes trudge through NF text whether I love the style or not, thinking I should "earn" the information.

So weirdly Puritan, I know.

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