Tuesday, January 31, 2006

A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906 by Simon Winchester

I finished A Crack in the Edge of the World by Simon Winchester yesterday. I enjoyed reading this account of the earthquake that struck San Francisco 100 years ago, but as soon as I finished I felt disappointment. It had been filled with interesting information, but something was missing. Having read the author's book Krakatoa, I expected more about the people involved.

In Krakatoa, Winchester wove into the scientific and historical accounts the stories of individuals on the islands and the ships near the great volcano. He told of their actions before, during, and, if they survived, after the event. In A Crack in the Edge of the World, he introduced five people in the Prologue. I expected that I would read more of their stories, but they were only briefly mentioned later in the book. Other individuals are introduced later in the account, but the author does not enlist any of them as recurring narrators as he did in the previous book.

I do understand much more about the San Andreas Fault and plate tectonics, and I enjoyed the brief accounts of the Lisbon, Charleston, and New Madrid earthquakes. The book succeeded more as science than history. It will not be as good a discussion book as Krakatoa or Erik Larson's Isaac's Storm.

If you wish to know more about the San Francisco Earthquake, go to the Bancroft Library's special website. Thanks to Sarah at Librarian in Black for the tip.

Winchester, Simon. A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906. New York: Harper Collins, 2005. ISBN 0060571993

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