Resource Links Review - A Terrible Roar of Water

Reviewed by: Victoria Pennell

A Terrible Roar of Water

Penny Draper

 As I write this review it is 80 years to the day since the southern area of the Burin Peninsula on Newfoundland’s south coast was swept by a Tsunami which took 28 lives and caused damage and destruction to over 50 communities and more that 10,000 people. It is also coincidental that I have in my possession a letter which was written to my grandmother by a lady from one of those communities thanking her for the clothes which she sent as her contribution to the disaster relief at the time.

In this story Penny Draper presents a very realistic picture, not only of the disaster which occurred, but of the way of life in Newfoundland in 1929. Through the experiences of Murphy, a young boy whose father died on the day he was born and whose mother is working in St. John’s, we see a picture of life in a fishing village. Murphy is 12 years old and desperately wants to go out in the fishing boat with his uncle with whom he lives. However, his uncle claims he is too young. Yet he is not too young to help out once the fish arrives on the land. Everyone in the family is involved in preparing the fist for market – removing it from the boat, gutting, splitting, salting and drying. It is this kind of activity that is taking place on November 18, 1929 when a sudden trembling of the earth is experienced in the community. No one has ever experienced anything like it before except Old Antoine who says “c’etait un tremblement de terre – earthquake… That’s what it was, tout exact. … The tidal wave next. That’s what.” (p. 66) Most people pay no heed to Old Antoine, however, later in the evening his predictions come true as 3 major waves devastate the community. Most of the homes and boats are destroyed along with most of the food that people have accumulated for the winter. Draper goes on to show how the community copes with the disaster and the arrival of help from St. John’s, the capital city, and other areas as people began to rebuild their lives.

Draper has researched her topic well. There is much in the story which is fact, even the stories of the survival of a baby who was asleep in the second story of a house which was swept into a pond while other members of the family on the first floor drowned, and another house which was swept out to sea and back again with five people still alive on the second floor. She adds an author’s note which explains some of the factual information. 

Much has been written about this disaster including a number of books by Newfoundland authors, however this is the first one for a younger audience. It will certainly be a welcome addition to the historical fiction genre for Newfoundland children and readers who are familiar with Draper’s other books will enjoy the drama and history for which she is noted.

I would highly recommend this book for school and public libraries.

 

Article by Victoria Pennell

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