Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Circus Fire ~ Stewart O'Nan

Stewart O'Nan
Non-Fiction (2001)

5/5  My Rating

True story of the Ringling Brothers circus tent fire in Hartford, Connecticut, on July 6, 1944, that killed 167 people, most of them women and children.

I didn't like Circus Fire at first.  I felt dragged down by all the details that I didn't think mattered, but as I got sucked into the story, realized they did and wished I'd paid closer attention.  There were so many, and the book was so long, that I had to renew it through the library twice.  Normally if I take that long to read a book I give up and return it, but I couldn't let go of this one and didn't want it to end.  Pictures of the fire itself as well as the aftermath had me going back to match them up with the parts of the story I was reading. I couldn't stop staring at the picture of Little Miss 1565 in the morgue, a blond little girl who for years was never properly identified despite tireless work by detectives.

I read O'Nan's book A Prayer for the Dying, a dark story that I thought was well written - odd but intriguing - so his name was familiar to me when I picked this up.  I'd like to read more of his work.  This and the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks are two of the most well-researched books I've ever read.


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