Picks and Pans Review: The Circus Fire

UPDATED 08/28/2000 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 08/28/2000 at 01:00 AM EDT

by Stewart O'Nan

Novelist O'Nan's true-life account of 7,000 people trying to escape a burning tent during a 1944 matinee of the Ringling Bros, and Barnum & Bailey Circus in Hartford is a gripping portrayal of humanity in selfless bravery—and mindless panic. The blaze, which spread with frightening speed, killed 167 people and injured nearly 500 in the biggest disaster in Connecticut's history. O'Nan interviewed dozens of survivors and families of victims to detail the fire's minute-by-minute horror. One unclaimed body, that of a little girl, became a symbol of the tragedy. As recently as 1990, investigators were re-examining the evidence in efforts to identify her body and determine the fire's cause. O'Nan, however, has refrained from trying to tie things up neatly. He has simply crafted an engrossing and uplifting narrative from the smoldering embers. (Doubleday, $24.95)

Bottom Line: Compelling real-life drama

Your Reaction

Follow Us

On Newsstands Now

Lupita Nyong'o: Most Beautiful!
  • Lupita Nyong'o: Most Beautiful!
  • Chelsea Clinton is Pregnant!
  • Exclusive Royal Tour Diary

Pick up your copy on newsstands

Click here for instant access to the Digital Magazine

Advertisement

From Our Partners

Watch It

From Our Partners



Sign up for our daily newsletter and other special offers.
    Choose your newsletters
Thank you for signing up! Your request may take up to one week to be processed.
    see all newsletters