Cafe Parlez for January – Dark Tide

Today’s theme is Molasses!  We have gingerbread and whipped cream, molasses cookies (very yum!), and cheese and crackers.  A full house tonight to discuss this book about the molasses flood of 1919.  First order of business, after the announcements, is to take a group shot to send to the author, who is a big supporter of book groups.

 A couple of us has family members who remember hearing about the flood.

People think that parts of this book seem like a novel.  Noone had looked at the court records ever, because of the time it happened: just before the police strike and the Sacco-Vanzetti trial, and at the end of World War I.

What surprised us most of the flood?  Most agree that the size of the wave was shocking and can’t imagine getting stuck in the molasses.    Also, people agree that the fact that water wouldn’t clear it up.  The big surprise is that we never learned about this before, when it happened in our own state.    The only other books are for children. 

People hearing about this book thought it was a joke, that molasses couldn’t cause a flood.  The other thing people were surprised about is the uses for the molasses back then. 

The group liked the characters, especially the watchman who warned everyone about the impending disaster.   LS also likes the brakeman of the train who stopped the next train by standing on the tracks.  MD likes the lawyer for the prosecution.   The Bad Guy was Arthur Jell, the president of the molasses company, who painted the tank brown to disguise the leaks rather than fix them.  The problems with construction of pretty nearly everything are disturbing.  You’d think Boston would’ve learned by this flood, but our experience with the Big Dig shows us that they havent.

What would happen today if this incident had happened recently?  We agree that it wouldn’t have been as civilized, as shown by the Big Dig lawsuit, and the September 11 suits. 

Are poor neighborhoods treated in the same way as the North End was in 1919?  At first people say no, but, as we examine it, we realize that this is happening in other countries, on Native Reservations, and in some poor neighborhoods.

The flood killed horses and rats, and probably helped to keep the rat population down in the spring.

Anarchists!  People didn’t know that the anarchists did so much damage back then.   This brings the Sacco and Vanzetti case into focus. 

MC thinks that this book has a lot in common with “Devil in the White City” or “Isaac’s Storm”, where greater world events were brought into the story, you get a sense of the time, the writing made the story interesting.  Some in the group like this sort of history book, where the people are brought out.  History is about the people involved, not just the dates and incidents. 

Big ol’ thumbs up for this book!  See you next month for “The Giant’s House”. 

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