Saturday, November 16, 2013

Book review: "To Sleep With The Angels: the story of a fire"

To Sleep with the Angels: The Story of a FireTo Sleep with the Angels: The Story of a Fire by David Cowan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


On December 1st, 1958, in Chicago, a fire started under a remote stairway next to the boiler room in the basement of Our Lady of the Angels school. There were fire doors on the first floor, but not on the second, so after smoldering for at least a quarter of an hour and gaining heat and power, the fire leapt up the staircase, which had become a virtual chimney. Also, a disused connection to a water fountain allowed the fire inside the wall, where it found its way to the narrow cockloft above the ceiling of the second floor classrooms.

By the time anyone noticed smoke, the blaze was already set to be a killer. Like the elementary school I attended, OLA was made of wood, plaster, and paint, and went up like a torch. Children were trapped because thick, suffocating smoke blocked the stairway out. In the end, 92 children died, as well as 3 nuns who perished alongside their students.

This book is extremely well written and gripping. The description of the fire itself is both horrifying and mesmerizing, but the book goes on to describe the young man who confessed to having set the fire in a trash barrel, and the effect of the fire, even decades later, on the students, the nuns and priests, the firemen, and the neighborhood as a whole.

If you like true stories about ordinary people caught in extraordinary situations, I recommend this book highly.



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8 comments:

Sioux said...

Knowing that you thoroughly enjoy the books you give only 4 stars to, I am impressed.

It sounds like a gripping one...

hedgewitch said...

Sounds like a grueling but worthwhile read, Shay. It goes on my list with The Beautiful Cigar-girl. One can never have too long a booklist, after all.

Grandmother (Mary) said...

I'm also reading a book about a fire in a school- Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton. It's a stunner with gorgeous writing and a unique perspective of the mother and daughter who are out of their very damaged bodies and telling the story. Also a worthwhile book for the long winter days.

Daryl said...

not much of a non fiction reader but this sounds good, thanks!

Mama Zen said...

This sounds outstanding.

Jannie Funster said...

I think I don't need to read it now, you took me through the gamut in quick passing.

Who by fire
who by water.

My next read will most likely be the 2nd in the "Unwind" trilogy.

xoxo

G-Man said...

Depressing......

Sara said...

Ah, I know just the right person for this book and the holidays are right around the corner. Thanks, Shay:~)