August Book Reviews

Haunted Girl Halfax and Titanic
HauntedAuthor: Laurie Glenn Norris with Barbara Thompson

Publisher: Nimbus Publising: Halifax, 2012

Everyone loves a good ghost story; while stories written in the style of the classic authors such as M.R.James have the ability to make ones’ hair stand on end, it is in historically true stories of hauntings that that primitive fear is combined with a line of inquisitive reasoning. The historical milieus of these true stories provide the perfect mix of story telling and realism. Haunted Girl: Esther Cox & The Great Amherst Mystery is one of these true stories.

            Haunted Girl follows the story of the late 19th century Nova Scotian girl named Esther Cox who between 1878 and 1879 was the focal point of a significant series of hauntings labelled the Great Amherst Mystery by contemporaries. The book begins by placing the reader at the onset of the haunting and proceeds to describe in wonderful detail the varied symptoms of her condition. Thunderous noises could be heard throughout whichever residence Esther resided, while objects moved around the room, went missing or were literally thrown with malicious intent at erstwhile observers; the physical manifestations of the haunting on Esther’s quality of life are portrayed in immaculate detail.

Haunted Girl could have focused solely on the great mystery of Esther’s haunting and been a welcome addition to the corpus of Canadian non-fiction writing. What makes Haunted Girl an excellent work, is its attempt to merge its narrative with broader themes concerning the rise of the Spiritualist movement in North America after the American Civil War, the philosophical beliefs of the period, the scientific interpretations of Esther’s condition, and the role of the female in 19th century North America. Above and beyond the combination of narrative and broader perspective offered, Haunted Girl’s examination of Walter Hubbell, the contemporary opportunist who used Esther’s story for his own gain, makes Laurie Glenn Norris’ and Barbara Thompson’s book a worthwhile read for any fan of the paranormal and of Canadian history.


TitanicAuthor: John Boileau

Publisher: Nimbus Publishing: Halifax, 2012

In April this year, the world commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster. Documentaries were released, podcasts produced, and eminent works, most notably James Cameron’s opus, Titanic were given renewed exposure; these mediums, while accessible, are limited in their effectiveness. It is in the written word that the abundance of primary and secondary sources can be used to establish a real appreciation for the events which precipitated and coincided with the disaster. From a Canadian context, however, there has yet to be a recent contemplation concerning the impact Titanic had on the Canadian landscape. Luckily, John Boileau has, in partnership with Nimbus Publishing, filled this gap in our knowledge with an exceptional book on Halifax and the Titanic.

What makes Halifax and Titanic such a good book is that it is effective as a general survey of the disaster, while sufficiently specific in its focus to set it apart from the general body of Titanic literature. Supplementing Boileau’s exceptional research and literary flow are valuable visuals drawn from various archives and eminent works, which bring a sense of humanity to the individuals and events described. The accounts of many of the prominent Canadians involved in the disaster and their legacy amounts to bringing the tragedy of the Titanic to a new level of understanding for Canadians. Although the disaster of the Titanic was one hundred years ago, its impact is still felt by the families across Canada who had relatives perish in the cold waters of the Atlantic.

Only 32% of the passengers of the Titanic survived the fateful night of the 15th of April 1912. John Boileau’s Halifax and Titanic is a fine addition to the literature concerning this eminent modern history disaster. Canadians interested in learning more about the impact of this event on a key Canadian city, whilst immersing themselves in a detailed and thought provoking narrative, should place Halifax and Titanic on the top of their 2012 reading list.


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