Regular price: $28.51

Membership details Membership details
  • A 30-day trial plus your first audiobook, free.
  • 1 credit/month after trial – good for any book, any price.
  • Easy exchanges – swap any book you don’t love.
  • Keep your audiobooks, even if you cancel.
  • After your trial, Audible is just $14.95/month.
OR
In Cart

Publisher's Summary

From New York Times best-selling author John U. Bacon, a gripping narrative history of the largest manmade detonation prior to Hiroshima: In 1917, a ship laden with the most explosives ever packed on a vessel sailed out of Brooklyn's harbor for the battlegrounds of World War I; when it stopped in Halifax, Nova Scotia, an extraordinary disaster awaited....

On Monday, December 3, 1917, the French freighter SS Mont-Blanc set sail from Brooklyn carrying the largest cache of explosives ever loaded onto a ship, including 2,300 tons of picric acid, an unstable, poisonous chemical more powerful than TNT. The US had just recently entered World War I, and the ordnance was bound for the battlefields of France to help the Allies break the grueling stalemate that had protracted the fighting for nearly four demoralizing years. The explosives were so dangerous that Captain Aimé Le Medec took unprecedented safety measures, including banning the crew from smoking, lighting matches, or even touching a drop of liquor.

Sailing north, the Mont-Blanc faced deadly danger, enduring a terrifying snowstorm off the coast of Maine and evading stealthy enemy U-boats hunting the waters of the Atlantic. But it was in Nova Scotia that an extraordinary disaster awaited. As the Mont-Blanc waited to dock in Halifax, it was struck by a Norwegian relief ship, the Imo, charging out of port. A small fire on the freighter's deck caused by the impact ignited the explosives below, resulting in a horrific blast that, in 1/15 of a second, leveled 325 acres of Halifax - killing more than 1,000 people and wounding 9,000 more.

In this definitive account, Bacon combines research and eyewitness accounts to re-create the tragedy and its aftermath, including the international effort to rebuild the devastated port city. As he brings to light one of the most dramatic incidents of the 20th century, Bacon explores the long shadow this first "weapon of mass destruction" would cast on the future of nuclear warfare - crucial insights and understanding relevant to us today.

©2017 John U. Bacon (P)2017 HarperCollins Publishers

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    82
  • 4 Stars
    27
  • 3 Stars
    8
  • 2 Stars
    1
  • 1 Stars
    0

Performance

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    67
  • 4 Stars
    25
  • 3 Stars
    11
  • 2 Stars
    3
  • 1 Stars
    1

Story

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    76
  • 4 Stars
    23
  • 3 Stars
    6
  • 2 Stars
    1
  • 1 Stars
    0
Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

The best story I never heard of

This is a really interesting, very engaging story about a major event I had never heard of. I've read a lot of Bacon's work. I'm a University of Michigan fan, and he covers the school's athletics pretty extensively. While this book has one very minor connecting thread to Michigan, Bacon's reputation lead me to give it a shot. I'm really glad I did.

He tells the story of this horrific event by telling the stories of several people directly affected by it, and involved in the recovery efforts. It's a great way to really humanize it and make the whole ordeal feel very real. It's less about the number of tons of explosives, and more about the people.

Johnny Heller does an excellent job reading this. He smoothly slips into a flawless French accent when pronouncing the many French words and names, which really makes things flow nicely. He bring proper seriousness to a serious topic, but keeps the light moments light. A great pairing or reader and author here.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Lessons from Halifax

I grew up on the Canadian border, and though I’d heard of the Halifax explosion, I had no idea of the scope of its devastation. Bacon humanizes the victims and survivors, meticulously details the events leading up to the disaster, and creates a compelling narrative. Heller’s narration perfectly fits the story.

Heartbreaking, compelling, inspiring, and highly recommended.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Fascinating story

Fascinating story of greatest man-made disaster up to that time.
The true stories of individual men and women brings eyewitness accounts to bear and personalizes what might otherwise be drily factual.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A very detailed account of an unfortunate event!

Before embarking on a road-trip to Halifax, I downloaded this audio book to listen to while driving from VA to NS. This book covered much more detail than I expected, though I found it to be very engaging none-the-less. It served well to help me learn more about this event that shaped the areas around where the explosion happened as well as relations between the US and Canada. Initially, I found the level of detail to be overwhelming, however, as I continued listening, I appreciated these interwoven storylines and data points. John U. Bacon went to great lengths to pull together a huge variety of information from many disciplines--and did so with a very obvious fondness and tenderness for the people whose lives were affected by this tragedy. Johnny Heller did a seamless job of narrating this book as well--and though I don't know French, I saw another reviewer pointed out that Heller's pronunciation and accent were accurate, which only allowed better focus on the book (meaning, not distracted by anything in the narration, as can happen sometimes.) I also agree with fellow reviewers who noted Heller's appropriate seriousness and light-heartedness at times throughout the book. It has been about 10 years since the last time I read a book of this length. Also about 10 years since I listened to a book of this length. It took me a while to get back into the rhythm of a book of this length, but it was well worth it for its richness in detail and human capabilities.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

An event I knew nothing about

I'd never even heard about this happening until coming across the book on Audible. Very well put together. It could have been written as a recitation of facts, but is pursued as a story of people's lives. I'd suggest it to anybody.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Halifax Explosion - Lesson of caring

Would you consider the audio edition of The Great Halifax Explosion to be better than the print version?

Not a huge fan of this narrator. Came across very monotone after hours of listening.

What do you think the narrator could have done better?

More inflection during the story. I know it’s a historical story, but it would give it more life.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

An unlikely friendship begins with tragedy.

1 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

A LOT of (unnecessary) tangential information

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Would not recommend due to much off-topic material that doesn't add to what should be the central theme (and the title) of the book.

What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

Still struggling to get there - and might never....

What about Johnny Heller’s performance did you like?

Excellent presentation.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful