three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
25-Nov-Dec-2006
user_rating: 
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Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast

A-The Great DelugeThe Great Deluge spans one of the most destructive weeks in American history—between August 27, 2005, the day before Hurricane Katrina pounded the Gulf Coast, and September 3, when the people whose suffering had become the source of national shame were finally being evacuated from a flooded New Orleans. Through interviews with many of the victims, as well as those charged with providing comfort and restoring order to the area (the book focuses primarily on New Orleans, though it brings into account the larger affected area, including the Mississippi coast), historian Douglas Brinkley provides explanations of what went wrong and who was to blame—the author takes special umbrage to the actions of the city’s mayor, Ray Nagin—for avoidable deaths and the scourge of a city.
William Morrow. 720 pages. $29.95. ISBN: 0061124230

Ft. Worth Star Telegram 4 of 5 Stars
"Now Brinkley has given the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe a biblical-sounding name, The Great Deluge, and backed up his book’s apocalyptic title with a sometimes graphic and often gripping 700-page story of misery and malfeasance. … Some of the writing is as compelling as that in any of the recent nonfiction thrillers such as Isaac’s Storm." Marilyn Bailey

Denver Post 4 of 5 Stars
"The Great Deluge is an important, poignant, and often-infuriating look at the tragedy—natural and man-made—that struck the United States’ most colorful city. … Brinkley has provided posterity with an invaluable, clear-eyed look into the early days after the maelstrom that turned New Orleans and the Gulf Coast into the U.S. equivalent of a Third World nation, complete with its own Diaspora." Tom Walker

New York Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Douglas Brinkley’s harrowing new book, The Great Deluge, captures the human toll of Katrina as graphically as the most vivid newspaper and television accounts did. … Mr. Brinkley writes not as a detached observer but as a longtime resident of New Orleans, and his passion for his beleaguered city—and his anger at the government’s mismanagement of the situation—are palpable in these pages." Michiko Kakutani

Boston Globe 3.5 of 5 Stars
"There are gripping vignettes of heroic rescues, of death, and of the violence and looting that followed the storm , exposing the raw nature of the racial and economic divide that has long marked New Orleans. … In the end, despite its many strengths, The Great Deluge only glancingly engages the greater underlying corruption that Katrina exposed." Dan Carter

Los Angeles Times 3 of 5 Stars
"Little in The Great Deluge will surprise those who followed the ample coverage from Louisiana and Mississippi last summer." Dante Ramos

Dallas Morning News 2 of 5 Stars
"Calling attention to such errors in a 600-plus-page book may be nitpicking, but the impression readers are left with is of sloppiness that might have been avoided with a little more time and better editing. Both readers and Mr. Brinkley’s reputation deserve better." Diane Jennings

Critical Summary

Professor of history and director of the Roosevelt Center at Tulane University, Douglas Brinkley, whose previous efforts include The Boys of Pointe du Hoc and The Majic Bus, brings an historical and personal perspective to bear on one of the first books to detail the Katrina disaster. Some critics point out factual errors and editorial lapses that detract from the author’s valuable story, and Diane Jennings writes that Brinkley’s book "will be among the earliest, but not among the best, books about the catastrophe." Others praise the author for his passion and the depth of his research and interviews with the individuals whose lives were most affected by the hurricane. The book’s value, finally, will be weighed against future accounts of the tragedy, many of which are already in the works.