From Publishers Weekly
In an excellent work of history and social commentary, Morgan chronicles the events leading up to and the aftermath of the devastating 1902 eruption of Mount Pele on the Caribbean island of Martinique, along with the life of the local city's only known survivor, a laborer named Ludger Sylbaris. The blast destroyed the city of St. Pierre and its 30,000 inhabitants in a matter of hours. Morgan, both a seasoned English journalist and a playwright, accordingly combines a nose for meticulous detail with a storytelling flair, giving his account an intense personal angle that enlivens the history. His introduction to turn-of-the-century St. Pierre is told from the point of view of a visiting photographer, and it is replete with the crisp images characteristic of Morgan's style: "He sits under a burning blue sky, watching ngociants dicker over quarts and kilos, eighths and sixteenths. He is fascinated by a sack of raw sugar, sweating syrup from every pore.... There is a constant reek of coal fires, of sun-roasted brick and rotten meat." Morgan has an equally good eye for the nuances of the colonial island's relationship with France, the political shortsightedness that allowed many warning signs to be ignored and the inevitable opportunists who took advantage of the situation afterward. Those include Barnum & Bailey's Circus, who hired Sylbaris and touted him as "the Most Marvelous Man in the World." The idea of him stripping off his shirt to reveal his puckered skin to onlookers at the behest of a sideshow barker is just one of the scenes that reverberate from this engrossing book.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
On the morning of 8 May 1902 the 30,000 residents of Saint Pierre on the Caribbean island of Martinique sheltered in the city's cathedral after Mont Pel e, the island's dormant volcano, came alive. But within minutes a tremendous eruption from the volcano utterly destroyed Saint Pierre and all its inhabitants - save for one solitary man, Ludger Sylbaris, a labourer who had spent the previous night in jail and who after the disaster toured America with Barnum's circus. Morgan provides a vivid recreation of that dreadful day combined with an equally evocative picture of 19th century life in the colony aided by contemporary photographs and illustrations. A thrilling narrative bound to win many readers on the word-of-mouth grapevine. And Morgan will present a TV programme on the 100th anniversary of the disaster.
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