Wednesday, August 24, 2011


I usually shy away from books about an historical event because, well, frankly, they read like history textbooks.  But this one was a delightful departure from that and was a truly amazing account of the greatest hurricane to ever blow ashore along the coast of New England.  Ms. Scott has a terrific voice and was gentle in her telling of the horrors of the hurricane that caught the New England coast by surprise. 

Book Title: Sudden Sea, The Great Hurricane of 1938, by R. A. Scott
Genre:   Non-fiction
Beach Setting: New England coast, 1938
Format:  Trade paperback
Pages:  237
Publication date:  2003
Publisher:  Back Bay Books, Little Brown and Company
Favorite Passage:  The morning began softly on Narragansett Bay – just the flat, steady slap of the sea against the wooden hulls of the fishing boats easing out of the harbors of Rhode Island at first light.  Through a thin morning fog, the sun was a silver-white dollar, promising a bright day. 

Beach Read Rating:  5 (out of 5) Beach Umbrellas

Review:  I knew there wouldn’t be a happy ending here, as even 60 years later locals still talk about this terrible storm (they didn’t name hurricanes in 1938; that practice didn't start in the U.S until 1950 to avoid confusion when more than one storm was churning in the Atlantic).  The United States weather system (which was positively archaic by today’s standard) tracked the storm as merely a Tropical Storm (sustained wind speeds of 74 mph) when it was in actually a Category 5 Hurricane (sustained wind speeds of 155 mph).  Without adequate warning, people didn’t flee the storm, which resulted in an estimated eight-hundred deaths.  Entire beach villages were washed out in a single afternoon. People watched in horror as their neighbors homes floated right by.   Forests (which fed the local timber trade) still suffered 30 years later.  The author really brought the people—both those who survived and those who perished—to life once again.  Katherine Hepburn’s story showed that even the rich and famous were not immune to the hurricane’s wrath.  The book was heartbreaking and tragic yet peppered with stories of survival and told with almost poetic beauty. 

Cover blurb:  In the tradition of "The Perfect Storm, Sudden Sea" harkens back to a natural disaster that struck terror in the hearts of many. In this narrative, readers experience The Great Hurricane of 1938, the most financially destructive storm on record.

1 comment:

Catie Rhodes said...

Like you, I avoid historicals. They have to be very, very well-written to capture my interest. As you said, so many of them read like a textbook. I know a lot of research goes into them, so I guess that's why. If I decide I'm in the mood for something different, I'll give this a try. :D