Barometer Rising (New Canadian Library)

by Hugh MacLennan | Literature & Fiction |
ISBN: 0771099916 Global Overview for this book
Registered by Ibis3 of Newcastle, Ontario Canada on 11/15/2005
Buy from one of these Booksellers: | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon DE | Amazon FR | Amazon IT |
10 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by Ibis3 from Newcastle, Ontario Canada on Tuesday, November 15, 2005
This book is #1 in my CanLit project. See my blog at for more info (including several useful links such as archives, maps, biographical info, et alia). I bought this copy to send out as a Bookring. If you'd like to join, PM me with your shipping preferences.

Ring Guidelines:

1. When you receive the book, make a journal entry to let me know it got to you ok.
2. While reading the book, feel free to post on the appropriate Book Talk Forum thread here.
3. When you're done, make a journal entry and let us know what you thought.
4. PM the person next in order (please check here for the current order) for a current mailing address (please confirm that they're ready to receive the book).
5. Mail the book, make a journal entry and mark the book as travelling.

*keep the book for a maximum of 4 weeks. If you feel you can't read it in this amount of time, or you wish to be skipped for any reason, let me know & I'll rearrange the mailing order.
*sign your name inside the back cover of the book if you like.
*feel free to include a postcard, bookmark or other trinket with the book.

Thanks & have fun reading!

Order of go:
sent on November 25/05
1. ldpaulson (California, USA)- arrived December 13/05; sent December 28/05
2. Lil-Snoo (California, USA)- arrived January 3/06; sent February 13/06
3. neriman (Hawaii, USA)- arrived February 21/06; sent March 6/06
4. teacher57 (Wisconsin, USA)- arrived around March 15/06; sent June 13/06
5. cnfotp (Oxfordshire, UK)- arrived June 19/06; sent July 10/06
6. Sujie (New South Wales, Australia) - arrived July 18/06; sent July 30/06
7. Thursday5 (Ohio, USA)- arrived August 17; sent August 20/06
8. Megi53 (Virginia, USA) - arrived August 26/06; sent September 19/06
9. bibliotreker (Pennsylvania, USA) - arrived around September 23/06; sent October 21/06
... Back to Ibis3 (Ontario, Canada)

Journal Entry 2 by ldpaulson from Ventura, California USA on Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Ibis3 has perfect timing having just announced the start of the CanLit project shortly after an in-depth discussion on Canadian literature and history I had with a Saskatchewan native. It seems that the world at large knows very little about Canada, on average, Bob and Doug MacKenzie or Anne of Green Gables aside.

Seriously, World War I was a very important period in Canadian history. The same discussion transpired near Remembrance Day. The person was proudly displaying a poppy and lovingly recited "In Flanders' Fields." This is the same era in which this novel is set.

So now you know why I'm participating and why I'm eager to read BAROMETER RISING and the rest of the books in the series. Thanks, Ibis3!

Another ring ahead of this, but I'm eager to start reading.

Journal Entry 3 by ldpaulson from Ventura, California USA on Tuesday, December 27, 2005
It is 1917, and the nightmare of the First World War is dragging on through yet another winter. As far as Penelope Wain knows, her lover, Neil Macrae, is already dead -- killed in action while serving overseas under her father. That he died apparently in disgrace does not alter her love for him, even though her father is one of the most insistent belivers in his guilt. But what neither Penelope nor her father knows is that Neil Macrae is not dead, but has returned to Halifax to clear his name.

Barometer Rising, Hugh MacLennan's first novel, is a compelling romance set against the horrors of wartime and the catastophic Halifax Explosion of Thursday, December 6, 1917.

Written during World War II, BAROMETER RISING is more than a mere romance. MacLennan has dared to use his characters and war as a tool to probe at the Canadian character. What is it? What does it mean to be Canadian and a citizen of the Empire in a changing world?

Penelope Wain is perhaps my favorite of the characters. She is strong and goes strongly against convention/type as she is educated and modern. It's not going too far to suggest that she is liberated by 1917 standards since she thinks for herself and has been educated sufficiently that she works as a ship designer in Halifax.

MacLennan is a wonderfully descriptive writer and he balances this by not straying into excess. (You are spared the lengthy quoting of particular passages. Read the book yourself!) He also does a first-rate job of creating a broad range of characters -- from a schoolboy to an aging matriarch -- then examining their psyches as they, in turn, are observing the world around them, often in profound ways.

A stunning and wholly satisfying read. Thank you, Ibis3! You've whetted my palate for more Canadian literature. I cannot WAIT for the other books in this series. In all seriousness, I would hope to add this to my library. It is a wonderfully satisfying read and as deep as it is lyrical. Thank you!

Journal Entry 4 by Lil-Snoo from Aurora, Illinois USA on Tuesday, January 03, 2006
Just got back from Christmas vacation (in Canada!) and found this waiting for me in my mailbox. After all the good reviews I've read, I can't wait to start it! I really need to get more in touch with my Canadian heritage!

Journal Entry 5 by Lil-Snoo from Aurora, Illinois USA on Sunday, February 05, 2006
I admit I had a hard time getting into the book at first, but once I was able to get a feel for the characters I found it to be a great book! Not what I expected, and not what I'd normally read, but I'm glad I had the chance to take part in this ring. Waiting for neriman's address...then I will send it on.

UPDATE: Sent to meriman first class mail 2/13/06.

Journal Entry 6 by neriman from Princeton, New Jersey USA on Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Just got the book in the mail. Thank you for the California postcard, Lil-Snoo! I'll start reading this book as soon as I'm done with People of the Deer.

Journal Entry 7 by neriman from Princeton, New Jersey USA on Sunday, March 05, 2006

This book is fascinating in so many ways. It's a scathing critique of Canada's subservience to England during WWI, as well as a commentary on the horror and meaninglessness of war in general. The description of the Halifax explosion of 1917 is spectacular; reading it, I felt as though I were there myself. The moments before Jim and Mary Fraser's death are especially moving. Another aspect of the plot that's realistic is that up until the explosion, all the characters are caught up in their own problems, unaware that a catastrophe will soon change everything. Since the reader anticipates the explosion, this creates an interesting tension. As I read the book, I kept thinking that "life is what happens to us while we're busy making other plans."

As a female physicist, I have a few complaints about Penny's character. MacLennan mocks people's reactions to Penny's choice of profession, but in the first half of the book, he objectifies her: he can't mention her without also mentioning how slim, sensual, curvaceous and sexual her body is. This might be acceptable once but gets annoying on repetition. Penny's submissiveness with Neil is also a bit hard to believe. MacLennan seems to suggest that what pushed Penny into such a male-dominated and competitive profession was losing Neil; at the end of the novel, Penny appears to have given up her career without a second thought. Perhaps MacLennan is criticizing the culture of the era, which presented few options to a gifted woman like Penny; that may be what he means when he writes that "[Penny] was a prisoner of [Neil's] maleness because once she had wanted him and he had refused to forget it." It may be that in the second-last chapter, Penny is tempted to dump Neil and marry Angus Murray; but her past with Neil makes that impossible. Angus Murray was my favorite character in the book, mainly because of how understanding and respectful he was of Penny; I was disgusted with Neil's attitude when he found out that Penny had been designing boats. How can an intelligent woman marry someone like that? Can you tell I got completely absorbed in this book?

Thank you, Ibis3, for starting this bookring. I might never have gotten around to reading this amazing book otherwise. I'm going to buy a copy for my personal collection; I want to read it again sometime when I'm a little less frazzled with work.

Journal Entry 8 by neriman from Princeton, New Jersey USA on Monday, March 06, 2006
Mailed to reader1107.

Journal Entry 9 by reader1107 from Tucson, Arizona USA on Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Received this book last week but every time I try to make a journal entry either my internet is down or this site takes too long to load and it times out. But it has arrived safe and sound in Wisconsin USA. :-)

Journal Entry 10 by reader1107 from Tucson, Arizona USA on Monday, June 05, 2006
Wow! I thought I had the address of the next person, but couldn't find it anywhere. I've PM'd her and will send the book out as soon as I get it. I will try not to send it surface mail since I've had the book for so long. I apologize to everyone, especially Ibis3!

Released 12 yrs ago (6/13/2006 UTC) at Enjoy! in Controlled Release, Given to a fellow bookcrosser -- Controlled Releases



At last!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Poor book, suffocating in a mailing envelope because the second Tuesday of the month was an extra week away! Sigh...

It should arrive in the UK in 5-7 days, and then I won't have to be too ashamed to open my e-mail. Again, my humble apologies for holding the book hostage!!!

Journal Entry 12 by cnfotp on Monday, June 19, 2006
Arrived this morning - thank you! I have another book to finish first but I will start on it as soon as I've finished it.

Journal Entry 13 by cnfotp on Saturday, June 24, 2006
I finished this book yesterday. I didn't think I was going to enjoy it much at first as the descriptive passages seemed a bit longwinded and the characters difficult to relate to. Once I realised that the book was as much about Halifax as it was about Penny, Neil and Angus I enjoyed it a bit more. As I really got into it, it ended quite abruptly. I'd like to read it again to be able to write a proper review.

I'm PMing the next person on the list, but it may take me about a week to get the book moving again as I currently have no internet access at home. Thanks :)

Journal Entry 14 by cnfotp on Monday, July 10, 2006
In the post to Sujie today. Thank you for sharing this book with me :)

~~Safe travelling~~

Journal Entry 15 by Sujie from Kangaroo Valley, New South Wales Australia on Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Received today with a whole swag of bills, so this parcel made them more palatable - thanks for that, cnfotp. I am finishing a RABCK from Dunzy tonight, so it's Canada week here!

Journal Entry 16 by Sujie from Kangaroo Valley, New South Wales Australia on Sunday, July 30, 2006
You could just write Idpaulson and neriman's reviews over again for me (except of course I am not a physicist!). I found the submissiveness of Penny to Neil's maleness not at odds with my reading from the same period nor with my own knowledge of my mother and grandmother's similiar submission to their husbands. My mother, an educated and feisty woman, sat at home while my father returned to war after they were married in 1943 just because she was married! It's hard to fathom now. That line about Neil's maleness was also the one that resonated with me the most.
But, wow, what a great read for all its shortcomings and first novel flaws! I thought the chapters dealing with the explosion more gripping than most action novels I've read or films I've seen. He was a painterly writer with almost blinding clarity. I felt the characters were less brilliantly handled.
I thought I should know more about the Halifax disaster after reading an Anita Shreve novel touching on this. This novel has probably filled in more gaps than a non-fiction book could with me. I also learned that Canada shares with Australia that historical cringe as a colonial outpost of Britain. (I hope it is historical!) As late as the fifties Australians still called England "Home" or "The Mother Country".
Thanks for making this fascinating book available, Ibis. I am really looking forward to more of your Canlit list.
I'll post to Thursday when I get her address.

Journal Entry 17 by Thursday5 from Columbus, Ohio USA on Thursday, August 17, 2006
The book arrived today in the mail. I enjoyed the enclosures-especially the postcard of Kangaroo Valley, NSW Australia from Sujie. Having recently returned from a trip to the Halifax area I am looking forward to reading this book.

Journal Entry 18 by Thursday5 from Columbus, Ohio USA on Sunday, August 20, 2006
Thank you Ibis3 for offering this as a bookring. I would never have read this book without Bookcrossing-I would never have heard about this book without Bookcrossing.

This is only the 4th book I have rated as a 10 since joining Bookcrossing. The writing was artful and the characters rich and strong. Barometer Rising fits the description of "A Good Book" that I have on my bookshelf-especially the part about being exposed to things you wouldn't have been exposed to otherwise.

I spent time this past summer in Nova Scotia- in the Shelburne area studying history and in Northern Cape Breton enjoying the natural beauty, music, and local people. This book helped me to further develop my understanding of the history and culture of the province. As any good book on history does, it also helped me to develop connections to bigger ideas such as the effects of war, how a national identity is formed, and what happens to a place and people after catastrophic events. I was interested in how the Canadian colonial experience compared to the US Colonial experience and to other colonial experiences in such places as Singapore which also was a major harbor of British Empire.

I will PM the next person on the bookring and get the book sent off right away.

Journal Entry 19 by Megi53 from Danville, Virginia USA on Saturday, August 26, 2006
Came in today's mail -- looking forward to it!

Journal Entry 20 by Megi53 from Danville, Virginia USA on Tuesday, September 19, 2006
I was thrilled by the language MacLennan used to describe land and water:

(from page 180): "Not a breeze stirred. A veil of mist rose from the surface of the harbour and spread like a pool into the lower streets of the town, where it lay until the sun rose and turned it into a trillion points of flashing light."

(from page 250): "In the dawn the harbour was bleak and steel-coloured, extending into the whitened land like a scimitar with broken edges, stained by fragments of debris drifting with the tide."

The characters were pleasant, and a facet of the author himself seemed to shine through each of them.

So glad I got to experience an excellent Canadian author and learn more about an important event in history (the largest man-made explosion up until that time -- not exceeded until the atomic bomb; wow).

The afterword by Alistair MacLeod was rather dry. I should have left it for another day instead of reading it immediately after the sweetly sentimental train ride of Neil and Penny.

Packaged to mail off to bibliotreker after work today.

Journal Entry 21 by Megi53 from Danville, Virginia USA on Wednesday, September 20, 2006
The post office clerk asked me to open my package for inspection, then made me take out the postcard, bookmarks, and article to comply with Media Mail rules!

I didn't have an extra $2 to mail the book first class, but will put these items in an envelope with a 39-cent stamp and mail them to bibliotreker separately. He/she won't have any trouble including them in a mailing to Canada...

As long as I'm making an additional journal entry, let me point out how apropos one character's comment was (or was it MacLeod saying this?): Americans were never so happy as when they were responding to a disaster, as long as it was big enough. Touché! Wish I had copied down that passage.

Journal Entry 22 by Sujie from Kangaroo Valley, New South Wales Australia on Thursday, September 21, 2006
I'm sorry the postcard caused extra mailing for you Megi. I was interested in your quote from MacLennan about Americans liking contibuting to disasters because the same in often said of Australians (bushfires, floods, cyclones hit here every year). Maybe it's the pioneering spirit, maybe it's just human. (You couldn't say the British don't volunteer.)

Journal Entry 23 by Megi53 from Danville, Virginia USA on Friday, September 22, 2006
Hey -- two of my bookmarks were rejected by the clerk who handled that package! I thought the situation was ironic ... I'm always pontificating on the proper use of media mail, and the one time I tried to slide something by, I got caught!

I think the reference in Barometer Rising to Americans overreacting to disasters was meant snidely -- that's why I wish I remembered if it were in MacLeod's afterword. MacLennan writes in such a gentle manner that it didn't seem like something he'd ordinarily say.

I used to be curious about how others viewed Americans -- how they would imitate our accents or mock us, etc. -- and thanks to BC, I'm finding out!

ETA: (after reading the j/e below): it wasn't grief to get the package inspected -- I thought it was funny, because I'm always warning people not to include extras in their media mail, and then I ended up getting caught! It was funny, really -- and b, I sent you the extras in an envelope yesterday. This time the clerk wondered if it was a birthday card. :-)

Journal Entry 24 by bibliotreker from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA on Monday, September 25, 2006

Arrived last week while I was away. Sorry to read, Megi53, that this mailing caused you so much grief.

Journal Entry 25 by bibliotreker from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA on Saturday, October 21, 2006
What a world traveler this book has been! I could repeat much of what has been written previously. This novel hit close to my Nova Scotia ties having spent many years vacationing on the N.S. south shore not far from Shelburne. The author brought me back there describing the land, the forests and the mysterous fogs that roll in.

It made me wonder how did the explosion affect that area not terribly far from Halifax. Many Nova Scotians from other regions of the provence travel to Halifax for one reason or another. Being that it was wartime probably more than usual were there. I ,too, read Anita Shreve's recent novel, "A Wedding in December", where much of it takes place in Halifax during the tragedy and found myself comparing the two novels.

As far as American coming to the aid of the rest of the world during times of disaster, can we never forget when Canadians came to the rescue of American and European passagers stranded in the Maritimes when their planes were grounded immediately after 9/11. A good book on that topic is titled "The Day the World Came to Town" by Jim Defede when one of those planes landed in a small town in Newfoundland.

Thanks Ibis3 for a great read. Since there is no media mail outside the U.S. I was able to sent it with all of the enclosures it has picked up along it way. Thanks megi53 for the bookmark.

Sent this well traveled book home again, home again, back to Canada, mailed Saturday 21 October 2006.

Journal Entry 26 by Ibis3 from Newcastle, Ontario Canada on Monday, October 30, 2006
Arrived back home today! Thanks everyone for the bookmarks and postcards (sent despite draconian media mail restrictions). I'm glad everyone enjoyed it!


I decided to let this book continue its journey and sent it as part of gypsysmom's Canada Day Release Challenge to Anthony Rota, Member of Parliament for Nipissing—Timiskaming who is doing a book drive for Canadian troops in Afghanistan.

I hope whoever finds this book enjoys this taste of home.

Are you sure you want to delete this item? It cannot be undone.