The Circus Fire
by Stewart O'Nan
Last year I read an excellent account of the 1918 Influenza pandemic by John Barry entitled The Great Influenza: The story of the deadliest pandemic in history. This was a well-written account not only of the pandemic but also the rise of the medical establishment and the aftermath of the event. My sister had recommended this and recently she recommended another very good disaster book which I read over the recent holiday weekend. The Circus Fire: A True Story of an American Tragedy by Stewart O'Nan is an account of the great Hartford circus fire of 1944. This event was unknown to me prior to reading this book. However, it was nevertheless a great tragedy as 167 people died in the fire, including many children. O'Nan's account is very well-written as he brings the disaster alive with a detailed minute-by-minute narrative that never lags despite the attention to detail. The psychological insight and focus on particular families makes this an exceptionally good read.