The Blue Tattoo by Steven Laffoley


From Pottersfield Press Fall 2014 Catalogue:
From award-winning author Steven Laffoley comes a compelling tale of love and loss, despair and hope, based on real people and real events, that brings to life one of the most extraordinary stories of our time — The Halifax Explosion.

1917. The Great War has given rise to unprecedented prosperity to staid, Victorian Halifax. It has also given rise to an explosive desire for change. Medical student and daughter of a prominent Halifax family, Elizabeth Beckett dreams of bringing equality to woman in an age when men alone control the world of work and politics. She fights for suffrage to give women a voice in the politics of war. At the same times, sugar refinery worker Danny Cohen dreams of leaving Halifax and a deadly war machine that he sees as only serving the wealthy. He fights to make the money he needs to help himself escape. When their lives collide, their dreams and their views of the world are challenged by the promise of love. Yet their different views on the world prove too explosive. They are torn apart by the collision of their disparate dreams. Elizabeth returns to her suffrage movement for women. Danny escapes to Boston for a better life.However, when two ships collide in Halifax Harbour on December 6, 1917, and the greatest explosion the world had ever known is unleashed on the city, their eyes are opened to new truths. Elizabeth is swept up in the chaos that follows the Explosion and works courageously at a local hospital, overrun with the horribly injured, with dwindling medical supplies and worsening conditions, only to face a once-in-a-generation snowstorm that promises to take away whatever hope remains. Without fresh medical supplies, hundreds will soon die.
Meantime, desperate to return home, Danny hears of a medical relief train leaving Boston and conducted by Christopher H. Trueman, a man with with dark past, who promises to make Halifax in record time. Danny manages to make the train, only to face a snowstorm that stops the train in its tracks. Without action and personal sacrifice, the train may never make it.

Filled with a cast of unforgettable characters — from Boston mayor James Michael Curley to Group of Seven painter Arthur Lismer — The Blue Tattoo tells the sweeping story of the lives caught up in the unbelievable horror of The Halifax Explosion.

I recently went on a cruise to New England and Canada. One of the ports of call was Halifax, Nova Scotia. There I went on an excursion to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. Time there was limited so I really only spent time at the Titanic exhibit. (Halifax is where they brought the bodies for identification and the museum had Titanic artifacts that survived, as well as the stories of those who perished). The tour guide of the excursion also told us of the Halifax explosion of 1917. While I was in the Maritime Museum gift shop I saw this book and I had to buy it. I wanted to know more about it but have trouble reading non-fiction books. Since this was a novel I knew I would get through it without difficulty.

Laffoley describes the devastation very well. I saw a clear picture of the destruction, the wounded and the dead. I would get choked up and would have to take breaks because the images and heartache were a lot to read. But it was important to understand the scope of the explosion.

Laffoley was also good at showing the reader the before story of each ship, the SS Mont-Blanc and the SS Imo, without being technical and boring. We saw the point of views of the men on board both ships, their feelings, and seeing what lead to the two ships colliding.

A brief history about the explosion.

I did easily lose track of some of the characters, or in this case historical people. Many appear briefly, and others continued their story as they were important to the recovery. I wish there had been a character list or that I had wrote down my own to keep track of them.

I would have loved a detailed author’s note about his research, as well as what was fact and where he took artistic liberties.

I liked that the timeline of events was manly centered around the disaster. There was a small Act to show the reader the romance between Elizabeth and Danny. I liked Danny and Elizabeth as individuals but the romance was – eh. It was clichéd and rushed, but also not the main point of the story.

Putting that subplot aside it was still a good historical novel. I would recommend this book to anyone who would like to learn about the Halifax Explosion.

3.5 out of 5 Ships.

More about the artist, who appears as a character in the book, Arthur Lismer.
Arthur Lismer’s ‘Sorrow’ painting depicts aftermath of Halifax Explosion

CBC viewers get a rare look at “Sorrow”, one of Arthur Lismer’s Halifax Explosion-era paintings that had been lost for 75 years.

Some very descriptive quotes that stood out to me:
Page 124: Duggan glance over his shoulder and saw what he swore were the eyes of Satan, two lurid spurts of flame rising skyward, chasing a monstrous cloud that rose two hundred feet or more into the air. It was at that moment, beneath the unblinking green eyes of Satan, there came a thunderous howl.

Page 279: And though I feel an unfathomable exhaustion, I feel compelled to keep at it, as though to give up working would be to concede to the chaos so cruelly visited upon us.


Top Ten Tuesday – September 19: Top Ten Books On My Fall TBR List

For some reason this did not post on Tuesday, as it should have. I scheduled it to do so.  Better late than never.

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

I still have some books I picked up from NYCC 2016 that I would like to read this fall:

1) The Abyss Beyond Dreams by Peter F. Hamilton

2) A Crucible of Souls by Mitchell Hogan

3) The Tournament by Matthew Reilly

4) Lightless by C.A. Higgins

And there are books from this year’s Book Con:

5) Bonfire by Krysten Ritter

6) The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst

7) Caraval by Stephanie Garber

8) Satellite by Nick Lake

9) Nyxia by Scott Reintgen

10) Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova

Top Ten Tuesday: September 12: Throwback Freebie: Ten Books I Loved During The First Year I Started My Blog

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

September 12: Throwback Freebie: Ten Books I Loved During The First Year I Started My Blog, Favorite Books Published 5 or 10 or 15 Years Ago, Ten Older Books I Forgot How Much I Loved, etc. etc. Tweak however you want!

I started in 2007 (10 years ago!) on Live Journal, and I wasn’t too consistent in the beginning. So not all of these are from the first year exactly.

1) Phantom by Susan Kay – 5 out of 5 masks

2) We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver – 5 out 5.

3) Darth Bane: Path to Destruction by Drew Karpyshyn – 4 out of 5

4) The Approaching Storm by Alan Dean Foster – 4 out of 5

5) Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader by James Luceno – 4 out of 5

6) The Han Solo Trilogy by A.C. Crispin – 4.5 out of 5

7) I Am Legend by Richard Matheson – 4 out 5 Garlic Cloves

8) Star Wars X-Wing series Books 1-9 by Michael A. Stackpole and Aaron Allston

9) Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy – 5 out of 5 blighted stars

10) Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen – 4 out of 5 peanuts

Top Ten Tuesday – September 5: Ten Books That Were A Chore To Get Through

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

September 5: Ten Books I Struggled to Get Into But Ended Up Loving or Ten Books That Were A Chore To Get Through or Ten Books I’ve Most Recently Put Down (the theme is…books you had a hard time with…tweak it how ever you need)

1. The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane

This was required reading in high school. It was a chore to get through because it’s written in the vernacular of the time period. If it were not for the Cliff’s Notes and discussion in class I would have failed the quizzes and tests.

2. Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

Basically I lost patience with the pacing. Should have been a stand-alone YA novel.

3. Enchantress: A Novel of Rav Hisda’s Daughter by Maggie Anton

Where was the magic? Where was the villain?

4. Beheld by Alex Flinn

Not at all how it is described on the book jacket. The main character is barely present. During some chapters I was skimming.

5. The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi

I was expecting something more eerie and supernatural and I ended up bored. Also, I would get so annoyed at some of the characters’ behaviors.

6. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

It took me a while to get used to the style of writing. She gets very wordy. It was close to the last quarter of the book that I didn’t have to reread sentences to understand the scene. It takes a lot of brain power to read and I was tired after 2 chapters.
The book is told through the perspective of the tenant, Mr. Lockwood, and the story itself is from the perspective of the housekeeper, Ellen Dean (Nelly). And the story she tells happened in the past. So because it is told this way we get a lot of telling and not much showing.

7. Hustling Hitler: The Jewish Vaudevillian Who Fooled the Führer by Walter Shapiro

The title is false advertising. I get that the author was trying to set up a background of Freeman’s life and how he became the man he was but I just wanted it to be about him hustling Hitler. I was not interested in the little details of his many cons and vaudeville days. Just concentrate on that one detail of his life, conning Hitler.

8. The Drafter by Kim Harrison

Everything moves so slow and not much of the plot develops. It is very repetitive and the action is not very enticing. I didn’t even finish.

9. Dodgers by Bill Beverly

I was so bored by the story. I expected an action packed road trip adventure. What I got was a story as mundane as watching the trees and flat plains outside your backseat window.

Just when something exciting would happen, it was short lived. Then it was back to the boring road trip. Blah, blah, blah. I was not much of a fan of they style of writing either.

10. Sybil: The Classic True Story of a Woman Possessed by Sixteen Personalities
by Flora Rheta Schreiber

I read this as a young teenager, so long before I had a computer. I got about a quarter through and gave up. Too long, too boring, too disturbing. And I read somewhere that it was all fabricated.