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In the span of five violent hours on August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina destroyed major Gulf Coast cities and flattened 150 miles of coastline. But it was only the first stage of a shocking triple tragedy. On the heels of one of the three strongest hurricanes ever to make landfall in the United States came the storm-surge flooding, which submerged a half-million homes—followed by the human tragedy of government mismanagement, which proved as cruel as the natural disaster itself.

In The Great Deluge, bestselling author Douglas Brinkley finds the true heroes of this unparalleled catastrophe, and lets the survivors tell their own stories, masterly allowing them to record the nightmare that was Katrina.

Published: HarperCollins on Oct 13, 2009
ISBN: 9780061744730
List price: $14.11
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A heavy one to embark on, but it is well-written and exposes/highlights many truths of the day leading up to and the weeks following the biggest natural disaster in American history, Hurricane Katrina. Well documented, researched, and organized, Brinkley answers many questions people may about the Katrina and response from the city, state, and national response. This is the 2006 version; however, I know an updated 2009 version came out which may have some updated evidence, follow-up interviews, or additional information in the following years. I would keep this on my shelves for students inquiring about the events of K or for those who are working on a research project.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Aside from political or military histories, the bulk of my non-fiction reading is about topics that were – for one reason or another – neglected in the course of my formal education. Reading a thick tome on Katrina only a few years after we all witnessed it (either personally or via live media) seemed like an excellent opportunity to gain some insight into the accuracy (or lack thereof) of contemporaneous accounts of a major historical event. The result? Kind of mixed bag.The anecdotal stories of suffering, bravery, loss, neglect and foolishness are interesting and important. They add color and emotion to the enormity of the disaster; they personalize the story of Katrina without becoming maudlin or sentimental. On the other hand, they tend to tell us little more than we already know (or suspect) about the anguish that attends all disasters. Furthermore, most of us watched these horrors unfold on our televisions and therefore are not surprised to learn that they did, in fact, happen.The most enlightening aspects of The Great Deluge focus on the specifics of infrastructure, government personnel, the political environment, and the chains of causation within the human community (as opposed to the weather) that exacerbated the after-effects of the storm. Even so, the abovementioned anecdotes of personal loss tend to push these more germane aspects too far into the margins of the story. Personally, I could have benefited from a more thorough explanation of the missions, goals and operating procedures of the different governmental agencies - so that I would have a clearer picture of where such agencies failed or succeeded, and why. (This kind of detail was laid out nicely with respect to the canal system, the levees, and the reasons for their failures.) The focus on individual personalities, while fascinating and appropriately infuriating, tended, again, to obscure the larger issues of bureaucratic failure.Otherwise, it's a well written and engaging book that maintains its credibility throughout; never did I feel that the author was venting personal grudges or animosities - or engaging in overwrought emotionalism at the expense of historical accuracy. It moves quickly and refrains (somewhat self-consciously at times) from getting mired for too long in pedantic detail.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
It's interesting that most of the ratings on this book were high, yet two of the comments shown below were so negative. I am reading it now, and can hardly believe I am reading the book they describe. I think Brinkley did a wonderful job of putting a catastrophe into chronological order, communicating what it was like to be there from scores of viewpoints, and making some value judgments about what happened. I happily gave it five stars. I hope that lessons for the future will be taken from this book, and other studies of the disaster that was Katrina.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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Reviews

A heavy one to embark on, but it is well-written and exposes/highlights many truths of the day leading up to and the weeks following the biggest natural disaster in American history, Hurricane Katrina. Well documented, researched, and organized, Brinkley answers many questions people may about the Katrina and response from the city, state, and national response. This is the 2006 version; however, I know an updated 2009 version came out which may have some updated evidence, follow-up interviews, or additional information in the following years. I would keep this on my shelves for students inquiring about the events of K or for those who are working on a research project.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Aside from political or military histories, the bulk of my non-fiction reading is about topics that were – for one reason or another – neglected in the course of my formal education. Reading a thick tome on Katrina only a few years after we all witnessed it (either personally or via live media) seemed like an excellent opportunity to gain some insight into the accuracy (or lack thereof) of contemporaneous accounts of a major historical event. The result? Kind of mixed bag.The anecdotal stories of suffering, bravery, loss, neglect and foolishness are interesting and important. They add color and emotion to the enormity of the disaster; they personalize the story of Katrina without becoming maudlin or sentimental. On the other hand, they tend to tell us little more than we already know (or suspect) about the anguish that attends all disasters. Furthermore, most of us watched these horrors unfold on our televisions and therefore are not surprised to learn that they did, in fact, happen.The most enlightening aspects of The Great Deluge focus on the specifics of infrastructure, government personnel, the political environment, and the chains of causation within the human community (as opposed to the weather) that exacerbated the after-effects of the storm. Even so, the abovementioned anecdotes of personal loss tend to push these more germane aspects too far into the margins of the story. Personally, I could have benefited from a more thorough explanation of the missions, goals and operating procedures of the different governmental agencies - so that I would have a clearer picture of where such agencies failed or succeeded, and why. (This kind of detail was laid out nicely with respect to the canal system, the levees, and the reasons for their failures.) The focus on individual personalities, while fascinating and appropriately infuriating, tended, again, to obscure the larger issues of bureaucratic failure.Otherwise, it's a well written and engaging book that maintains its credibility throughout; never did I feel that the author was venting personal grudges or animosities - or engaging in overwrought emotionalism at the expense of historical accuracy. It moves quickly and refrains (somewhat self-consciously at times) from getting mired for too long in pedantic detail.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
It's interesting that most of the ratings on this book were high, yet two of the comments shown below were so negative. I am reading it now, and can hardly believe I am reading the book they describe. I think Brinkley did a wonderful job of putting a catastrophe into chronological order, communicating what it was like to be there from scores of viewpoints, and making some value judgments about what happened. I happily gave it five stars. I hope that lessons for the future will be taken from this book, and other studies of the disaster that was Katrina.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This is a compelling and seemingly even-handed retelling of Hurricane Katrina and the resulting aftermath and response. The stories of individuals are used to illuminate and emphasize points that the author makes about the horror of the situation and the plight caused by not only the storm but also the failure of the levees and the inability of all levels of the government to react quickly and decisively. There is plenty of blame to go around when it comes to government ineptitude and the author assigns it where it is due. However, he also points out some of the successes that weren't originally brought to light in the initial media coverage. This book will make you angry all over again about the way that this unprecedented natural and man-made disaster was handled but it also allows you to celebrate the way that individuals stepped up to help out their fellow man. This book should be required reading for anyone who is working in the government and disaster relief agencies so that mistakes that we made with the Hurricane Katrina response will never be made again.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This is a realistic, nonpartisan description of a disaster. Much of the disaster could have been mitigated, and a better plan for providing relief. Brinkley has done an excellent job laying the foundation for this epic mess and the total government ineptitude short and long term reponses.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I wouldn't call it delicious irony, but it's pretty ironic that we're bracing for a hurricane to hit the East Coast and I've just finished Douglas Brinkley's The Great Deluge, a recounting of the horrors following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 (today being just a few days shy of the six year anniversary of the event). Visiting New Orleans just this past month prompted my interest in the subject, where swaths of still-unoccupied or still-damaged row houses dominate the landscape in sections of the Treme, Marigny, and other neighborhoods.Covering a week-long period that involves days before and after the Hurricane's landfall, Brinkley documents the ineptitude of government officials and inability of government institutions to take charge that led to the "federally-induced disaster" as locals have taken to describing it. The void of responsibility was filled by the man-on-the-street who took it upon themselves to help out those in need, with a myriad of examples provided by Brinkley. Told in a style that deftly balances finger-pointing with a recounting of compassionate deeds, Brinkley has written an immensely important contribution to the literature of natural and government-induced disasters.
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