Book Critique -Triangle: The Fire That Changed America

Triangle: The Fire That Changed America is a historical book authored by a Washington Post Journalist named David Von Drehle. It was a real account of the events that took place at the beginning of the 20th century. David’s effort in writing this book was not futile as he scooped many awards for it. Although the novel is not all perfect, the writer exemplifies excellent writing skills as he creates an accurate picture of how events went down back then.

The fascinating part of the book is the two-third part of it where it talks about the actual blaze (Von 231). Considering that even the title of the novel is about the fire it goes unsaid that every reader would be expecting more content on that. Unfortunately for the first third, the story is about the protest and numerous laborers’ movements. Honestly, a huge percentage of readers we not amazed with this unionizing narration. According to people’s expectations before reading the book, they would want to know of the disaster itself, not the political and social factor that might have triggered the tragedy. Maybe David thought it to be wise if he had begun by familiarizing his audience of how the working place environment was before disaster struck.

However, to some extent the different mode that the book took is acceptable as it is to explain how America was changed by the fire. Though the furnace was in New York, it turned politics, the laws, and their enforcement strategy in the whole nation. Before the incident, the management of social workplaces did not see the essence of doing fire drills. Installation of sprinklers was regarded to be expensive and since the law did not make it mandatory no one cared of fire safety. From the book we are confined to understanding how this changed and its advantages.

 The stories of people in the book were really interesting. For instance, the backstories of the less fortunate employee that planning to court a girl just before the fire broke.  Most of the workers were the sole breadwinners of their respective households, and they sent money to their families in Europe. As a result of the fire, some families lost more than one family member although the exact figures are unknown. But there would have been no need for conducting such a level of research to get precise data. By the author talking about the stories of the workers he must have been trying to show that the lives that were lost were of great people in the building of the country’s economy. David was able to discuss this in a dignifying and respectable manner which is a great writing technique.

The approach that the author uses in the book does not seek to exploit the terrible moment in America’s capital, but instead, he shows his passion for the victims. He admires the reforms that were formulated after the incident. As it can be noted from the book, there is a group of people who benefited from the fire break out, and David strongly rebukes their deeds. And even though details about the fire are not as much as readers would have anticipated the novel is spiced up with tales that convey the horrific event. Mentioning the heroic act of firefighters, law enforcement officers and the general community adds life to the book and prevents it from being gloomy. As the subtitle of the book dictates the primary objective of the novel is to show the impact that the Triangle calamity had on New York, workers union, and the federal government. And by the end of the book, this intent is delivered to the audience.

Additionally, the writer explains the difficulties that the stipulated reforms underwent before their legislation. The punishment of owners of the Triangle Company is also mentioned (Von 296). The book therefore not only provides a comprehensive and in-depth account of events before the fire but also aftermath. Young historians who thought that the 9/11 incident was the only bad day for America should read David Von’s novel. They will also understand the American labor history and have an insight of labor unions.

In as much as the whole narration by David had superb dramatic moments, the book hauled back a little when it focused on the protests and strikes. And this might have been a turn-off for some readers of the book. However, it should not be forgotten that the whole disaster claimed the lives of many people and it is something emotional for the deceased families. By understanding this then it would have been unprofessional and inhumane if the whole book would have just dealt with the actual fire. David showcases his skill by creating a picture of how the events unfolded without opening the wounds of those that were directly affected. He gives a face and a voice to the fallen soldiers that lost their lives during the disaster and should be given credit for such a noble task.


Works Cited

Von, Drehle D. Triangle: The Fire That Changed America. Grove/Atlantic, Inc, 2004, Accessed 19 Nov. 2017.

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