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Barometer Rising

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  1,140 Ratings  ·  81 Reviews
Penelope Wain believes that her lover, Neil Macrae, has been killed while serving overseas under her father. That he died apparently in disgrace does not alter her love for him, even though her father is insistent on his guilt. What neither Penelope or her father knows is that Neil is not dead, but has returned to Halifax to clear his name.

Hugh MacLennan’s first novel is a
Paperback, 248 pages
Published November 1st 1989 by New Canadian Library (first published 1941)
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Apr 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: canlit

The best part of this book is the description of the Halifax Explosion and the aftermath. That was very well done. The best character in this book is Halifax.

Unfortunately, it was paired with a laboured reworking of Odysseus returning to Ithaca to deal with the suitors; naming your character Penny, really? For the reader who didn't get it by the end, the author offers the hero's closing dialogue: "Wise Penelope. That's what Odysseus said to his wife when he got home."

The book is further ma
Feb 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who loves Canlit or a good historical novel
From the very beginning of Barometer Rising, you can tell this is a singular book. The foreword sets the stage when it says that this book "is one of the first ever written to use Halifax, Nova Scotia, as its sole background." Then it blew my mind by saying that there was "as yet no tradition of Canadian literature" at the time Barometer Rising was originally published (1941). CanLit is not even 70 years old at the time this review is being written, and look at all the things we've accomplished! ...more
Feb 20, 2013 rated it liked it
We read this for my Canadian Literature class. There are three major things in it: nationalism, sexism, and some good old fashion cousin-love. If you don't enjoy reading about any of those things, this is maybe not the book for you. If you think that a book set during WWI in Halifax at the time of the Halifax explosion is going to be action-packed and about either of those events, you're mistaken. Prepare yourself for a lot of introspection, and all of the sexism. But actually. So much.
Penny (Literary Hoarders)
Good story, I liked how Halifax was just as much a central character as the people. The ending was a bit abrupt or unfinished to me though.
Kevin Joannou
Apr 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Starts off a little slow, but ends with a bang.
Jul 20, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2009
Oh lord, this is awful. A historical romance set around the Halifax explosion sounds like a terrible concept, and the execution is equally bad. The setting feels forced; McLennan is very focused on making it authentic, at the expense of the storyline and general readability. The characters are, on the whole, extremely unlikeable, especially the "hero". And McLenna's prose is unbelievably melodramatic; he adores his adjectives, which is, honestly, an awful way to write. When the description of a ...more
Jun 18, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wish we had read this in high school or university for Canadian Lit or History. Much better than reading Atwood!

Though slow to start, I really liked the story overall. The author wove the the characters together and apart very well. The beginning part was a little slow though, but started to pick up closer to the explosion. I like how the "trivial" things in life were set aside with the explosion and it's aftermath. I thought it was interesting that the father was all but forgotten about unti
Sharon Plett
Oct 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this novel, much more than I expected. I can't believe no teacher or professor ever encouraged me to read it. I found it to be a wonderful reflection on Canadian history and Canadian identity.
Feb 28, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, canadiana
A classic in Canadian Literature. You need to read this in order to understand where Canadian Fiction has come from and possibly to understand some of the incidents that formed Canada as a nation. You don't need to read this if what you are looking for is a can't put it down tale told with verve.
Natalie Joan
Jun 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
First book I ever read set in Halifax. Started my obsession with the history of the Halifax Explosion.
Jean Ives
Nov 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Maybe because I've just been to Halifax, maybe because we are approaching the centennial of the Halifax explosion, maybe because I read it over the Remembrance Day weekend; this book spoke to me. The various descriptions of the city and daily life were vivid and took me right to those places that I know reasonably well. I can still feel the snow storm. Yes, there were tedious bits of navel gazing but hey, it was written in 1941. I loved it. How can you not love this language: "There were fine da ...more
Nov 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I really liked this book. We had to read it in high school and I remembered that I liked it then too but couldn't remember anything about it so was excited when our bookclub chose it this year in memory of the 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion. I believe that having grown up in the Halifax area with a grandmother who had lived in Halifax during the Explosion made the book more relevant to me. I loved how the author portrayed Halifax as another 'character' and one that I could identify w ...more
Jul 08, 2017 rated it liked it
I have truly enjoyed reading this book. Granted, the writing style is old, but it so well written that it does not matter. What really amazed me is the description of Canada. Right on the dot. MacLennan really understood what this country is all about, the description of the locations (Halifax, Montreal), of its people of Cape Breton and the challenge of this country to define itself - especially at that time - not quite American, and yet no longer quite British. Reading this book reminded me h ...more
Meaghan Steeves
Dec 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was beautifully written and I loved the additional story line that was put over top of the devastation. While I didn't find the author going off on separate stories from each character's past that hardly contributed anything to the story, I do have to remember that this was released in 1941. Overall I had a VERY different experience reading this at 26 than I did for the first time at 17. I also didn't cry which kind of surprised me considering I cry buckets every time I read the Dear Canada ...more
Feb 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Halifax explosion of 1917 is the backdrop for this story of a disgraced soldier returning to his homeland to confront the man who disgraced him. The relational dynamics are worked out in the two days leading up to the explosion and resolved after its terrible aftermath. Also threaded throughout the story is the reality of Canada's growing national identity.

Beautifully written. Compelling. His descriptions of the Halifax explosion were detailed and vivid. One of the best books I've read.
Dianne Swanson
Jan 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Because i am familiar with Halifax, I loved being able to picture in my mind the events of the book. A wonderful WWI Canadian story.
Susan Grimshaw
Dec 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Enjoyed it very much as I have visited Halifax 4 times and it brought back many happy memories.
Mar 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: school, can-lit
I've wanted to read this one for years but only recently could I get my hands on a copy.

MacLennan's novel surrounds the Halifax explosion and the events leading up to it regarding one family, the Wain's. The Wain family has its own secrets and problems, as ever family does, but their problems have made it into everyone else's life, as it happens in a small town.

MacLennan's prose is precise and well crafted to tell a complicated story, with the back drop of Canadian's worst explosion. I really
Mar 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Judy by: Judy Young
Shelves: book-discussion
Captivating. I loved the way the stories of the individual characters intertwined to make a complete whole. Interesting glimpse into life in Halifax during WW1.
Paula Dembeck
Aug 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is an historical novel which takes place in Halifax Nova Scotia during a period of eight days proceeding, during and after the great explosion in its harbor in December 1917.

Penny Wain is a brilliant designer of ships, the daughter of a prominent old Halifax family. Her lover Neil Macrae, (who is also her cousin), has been lost in the war and is believed dead, killed in action while serving in her father’s battalion. He apparently died in disgrace after refusing to carry out one of her fath
Feb 09, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ncl, new2me
I knew nothing about the role of Halifax as a major port during WWI or the explosion that occurred there in December 1917. This part of the story was well written, slowly building up to that fatal day. There was a love story enmeshed in with this which I did not feel was as well written. The ending was also not to the same standard. This was the first novel by this author and based on the potential I saw in the first part of the novel, I would definitely read another by him.
Nov 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the second book that I have read about the Halifax disaster. I liked this telling of the events better than the other book. This book made it more personal, more real, instead of a list of facts. This book is well written and contains good material for teaching. I can see why schools in Nova Scotia use this book as a literature book in school. I would use it too. I've always wished that they was a book about the Utah Pioneer Heritage that was written well, like this one. **stop here for ...more
I really... I just really don't like this book. It's boring, that's it. The whole thing is poorly executed except for brief (very brief) and very few and far between moments of Charlotte Brontë-esque humour. Actually there might only have been one moment like that, and I can't tell if it's actually endearing or if I only appreciated it because the rest is so horribly dry.
The women have no personality, and they are virtually impossible to tell apart unless they are under the male gaze. Then it's
Sarah Sammis
Jun 21, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: released
Last year I received three boxes of books that were library discards that would have been recycled for their paper if they were not taken. In other words they had failed to sell at the normal "friends of the library" type sales and were taking up precious space. Among those books was Barometer Rising, a romance set against the events of the Halifax explosion of 1917.

Barometer Rising is one of those books I've heard of but haven't read. It is considered as a classic of Canadian literature though
In 1917, the largest non-nuclear explosion in the world occurred in Halifax harbour when two ships collided, one loaded with munitions and highly flammable material. The resulting blast levelled the north end of the city, broke windows all over the city, even rattled dishes on shelves 60 - 100 miles away. 2000 died and thousands more were injured and blinded by flying shattered glass. This novel is set during the days before and after the Halifax Explosion. Neil MacRae was assumed to have died i ...more
This is an entertaining novel with intelligent writing and characterization. Depicting a deftly interwoven background (Halifax, Nova Scotia, during the first World War) it tells a romantic story. Penelope Wain, daughter of a prominent old family, a successful ship designer at 29, masks her love for her cousin, Neil Macraw, under a cool exterior. Wain, his superior officers, shields his own military blunder, behind Macrae, and allows him to face court martial. A shell gets him -- Macrae returns t ...more
Debi Robertson
What a joy to read great words and great sentences. The subject matter (the Halifax explosion) peaked my interest again and I actually ordered another book (history this time) on the period. This was Hugh MacLennan's first book. What a fabulous read. I chose it because Feb 21st-27th is Freedom to Read week. The celebration of the ability to read what we want when we want. This was one of those 'banned' books. Hard to believe in this day and age that this still happens but when you realize that t ...more
Oct 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is an eloquent book about the destruction of World War I on Canadian soldiers, and the devastating Halifax explosion in 1917. Neil McCrae's reputation was destroyed because he didn't follow an irrational and dangerous order that was passed to him. Presumed dead, he returns to Halifax to clear his name. The problem is the man who gave the order is his uncle and the father of his previous lover, who has never given up on him. The interaction is interrupted by the explosion where the whole tow ...more
Aug 29, 2013 rated it liked it
I heard a lot of good stuff about this book but was a bit underwhelmed. It seems to include some slang from the date it was written (1941) rather than the date it was set (1917). The introduction to my edition critiques the flat characters. I think that's fair, although you get more development before the explosion, after which (fair enough), character takes a back seat to PSTD and adrenaline. I appreciated the feminist take on Penny but would have liked to see more of her. It's a bit hard not t ...more
Ginger Hallett
Dec 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
I knew that this book is a work of historical fiction set in Halifax in 1917, the week surrounding the Halifax Explosion on December 6th. What I did not know was how the story would be told, and so was pleasantly surprised by the fictional family drama that is interwoven with the history of the event. I thought the writing would be much drier than it was. The story starts a few days prior to the collision of a French munitions ship and a Norwegian ship, focusing on the wealthy Wain family, whose ...more
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John Hugh MacLennan was born to Dr.Samuel MacLennan, a physician, and Katherine MacQuarrie in Glace Bay; he had an older sister named Frances. His father was a stern Calvinist; his mother, creative, warm and dreamy. Hugh inherited traits from both. In 1913 they went to London where Samuel took courses for a medical specialty. When they returned to Canada, they settled briefly in Sydney, before mov ...more
More about Hugh MacLennan...
“Wise Penelope! That's was Odysseus said to his wife when he got home. I don't think he ever told her he loved her. He probably knew the words would sound too small.” 8 likes
“Death suddenly seemed unimportant and life seemed everything” 2 likes
More quotes…