Review: Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 – Stephen Puleo

Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 by Stephen Puleo

Publisher: Beacon Press (January 15, 2019)

Print Length: 280 pages

Audiobook Length: 9 hrs and 23 mins

Narrator: Grover Gardner

Around noon on January 15, 1919, a group of firefighters was playing cards in Boston’s North End when they heard a tremendous crash. It was like roaring surf, one of them said later. Like a runaway two-horse team smashing through a fence, said another. A third firefighter jumped up from his chair to look out a window-“Oh my God!” he shouted to the other men, “Run!”

A 50-foot-tall steel tank filled with 2.3 million gallons of molasses had just collapsed on Boston’s waterfront, disgorging its contents as a 15-foot-high wave of molasses that at its outset traveled at 35 miles an hour. It demolished wooden homes, even the brick fire station. The number of dead wasn’t known for days. It would be years before a landmark court battle determined who was responsible for the disaster.

The Review

Whilst reading The New England Grimpendium by J.W. Ocker I came across a passage that struck an interest in me that I hadn’t felt since I first came across topics such as the Titanic or Tudor era. That topic was the Boston Molasses disaster of 1919. Unfortunately, Ocker wasn’t able to go into great detail about the flood, given that his book had many other fascinating North American topics to go over, and so, my search for more information on the subject went full steam ahead.

Colour me surprised when, while researching nonfiction novels for my ‘look forward to 2019 series, I found out that Puelo was set to release his take on the flood to coincide with the 100 anniversary of the disaster.

Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 is, by all definition, the only complete account of the disaster that gripped a nation. I rather enjoyed Puelo’s writing style, agreeing with other Goodreads reviewers, as it read like a documentary narration, making it much easier to recall previous information as the account progressed. The book was also structured linearly, as in before, during, and after the flood, making it that much more appealing to those who don’t normally read nonfiction.

When I first heard about the disaster, I thought it was quite ironic given the expression ‘slow as molasses in January,’ but Puelo puts an almost slapstick disaster into perspective by telling the stories of the victims, survivors, and civil cases that followed the collapse. I felt fear, grief, and anger for people who have long since passed, which in turn made me feel almost embarrassed that I ever treated this disaster as tongue and cheek as I once had.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indigo

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And those are my thoughts on Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 by Stephen Puleo. Have any North American nonfiction recommendations you think I should check out? Leave them as a comment below and help my TBR grow.


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