Customer Reviews for

The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

unbelievably powerful

I am a graduate of Tulane University and have had the unique privelege of having both lived in New Orleans for the last 5 "pre-Katrina" years of the city and also taken a class with Professor Brinkley. I was an official citizen of New Orleans until roughly 2 weeks befor...
I am a graduate of Tulane University and have had the unique privelege of having both lived in New Orleans for the last 5 "pre-Katrina" years of the city and also taken a class with Professor Brinkley. I was an official citizen of New Orleans until roughly 2 weeks before the hurricane struck, when I moved back to Texas after graduation, and to describe the feelings and emotions of watching such a horrific events unfold in the city you still call 'home' is almost impossible. The best I can do is to have you imagine that internal squeezing sensation you get whenever your heart gets broken, combined with the breathless feeling you get when you remember past regrets or disappointments, with a healthy dose of the stomach churning sensation that comes from witnessing horrific events (like the way you feel when you see an accident, or war on the news, or when you saw the twin towers fall). All of that combined is what it feels like to watch not just your home, but your neighbors homes, the supermarket where you bought groceries, the street corner you always passed on your jogs, an entire way of life... all get simply washed away and destroyed while the people with the power to help those in need looked and acted like they just didn't give a single damn about it.

Professor Brinkley perfectly captures all of this and surrounds it with the most meticulously well-researched history of the buildup and aftermath of Katrina. There are many fantastic and moving books that have come out in the wake of Katrina (Chris Rose' '1 Dead In Attic' in particular), but this is by far the most comprehensive as it not only covers the history of the disaster and the federal response, but keeps the narrative with the people forced to endure while the world watched. This book will, and I do not exaggerate on this at all, make you angry, make you cry, and give you hope all at the same time. Because of years of neglect and lethal indifference from those in power, we almost lost our most unique city. Luckily, there is a spirit in New Orleans that is part of what makes the city so special, and despite everything, the city works every day to pull itself back up. This book should be required classroom reading for decades to come.

Never forget.

Re-Cover, Re-Build, Re-New Orleans

posted by exploitedpunk on February 26, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

Point of view from a displaced evacuee in Amarillo, TX

This book is indeed an eye-opener. I'd already read several non-fiction novels about natural disasters prior to Hurricane Katrina. The best one was 'Rising Tide' about the flood of 1927 across the Mississippi Delta. As a Louisiana native, I'd read about Hurricane...
This book is indeed an eye-opener. I'd already read several non-fiction novels about natural disasters prior to Hurricane Katrina. The best one was 'Rising Tide' about the flood of 1927 across the Mississippi Delta. As a Louisiana native, I'd read about Hurricanes Audrey, Camille, and Betsy. I'd been through two of those personally & survived the horrors of Hurricane Andrew. Despite that, I felt it necessary to keep myself on the edge & not become lazy in my storm prep efforts like so many others. We evacuated the day before the storm & got hit by it in Mississippi as a Cat 1 hurricane. We lost TV for about a day & a half. I needed to be filled in on what happened during that time period and Doug Brinkley delivered the info. There are so many things that are impressive about this book, so many stories that are told about survivors & the situations they endured. The problem I had with the author is that he is too preachy. His points are valid & on target -- however, redundancy is not a good thing in a work of non-fiction. The comparison for me has to be 'Rising Tide'. The author of that book gives the facts & reasons for the flood gives an accounting of the governmental faults that helped to make everything worse and leaves it to the reader to provide any external bias. He also gives a lot of nuance about the history of New Orleans & why it became the way it is. Very good book. In contrast, 'The Great Deluge' brings the nuance the pain the humility the suffering the tragedy in a way that makes you feel like you are there while you read it. Again, his bias is the only bad point. Not only did he drive his point home, he knocked down the foundation on which the house actually sat. By page 580, I'd had enough of the preaching & couldn't take any more. Like a good survivor, I read it through to the end. I must recommend this book because the truth about these horrific events should be told. Just be ready to be hit over the head with the injustices of the Bush administration, Homeland Security & that Nagin guy, over & over, & over, & over again. In some ways it is justifiable -- the people who suffered through this probably felt a lot worse than you will while you are reading this. They too needed someone to blame for their misery -- that's natural. The people who allowed this tragedy to persist should be held accountable -- that hasn't happened yet. It may still happen if you read this and it helps you make decisions about who should be running the country -- then it was worth it all.

posted by Anonymous on June 2, 2006

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  • Posted February 26, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    unbelievably powerful

    I am a graduate of Tulane University and have had the unique privelege of having both lived in New Orleans for the last 5 "pre-Katrina" years of the city and also taken a class with Professor Brinkley. I was an official citizen of New Orleans until roughly 2 weeks before the hurricane struck, when I moved back to Texas after graduation, and to describe the feelings and emotions of watching such a horrific events unfold in the city you still call 'home' is almost impossible. The best I can do is to have you imagine that internal squeezing sensation you get whenever your heart gets broken, combined with the breathless feeling you get when you remember past regrets or disappointments, with a healthy dose of the stomach churning sensation that comes from witnessing horrific events (like the way you feel when you see an accident, or war on the news, or when you saw the twin towers fall). All of that combined is what it feels like to watch not just your home, but your neighbors homes, the supermarket where you bought groceries, the street corner you always passed on your jogs, an entire way of life... all get simply washed away and destroyed while the people with the power to help those in need looked and acted like they just didn't give a single damn about it.

    Professor Brinkley perfectly captures all of this and surrounds it with the most meticulously well-researched history of the buildup and aftermath of Katrina. There are many fantastic and moving books that have come out in the wake of Katrina (Chris Rose' '1 Dead In Attic' in particular), but this is by far the most comprehensive as it not only covers the history of the disaster and the federal response, but keeps the narrative with the people forced to endure while the world watched. This book will, and I do not exaggerate on this at all, make you angry, make you cry, and give you hope all at the same time. Because of years of neglect and lethal indifference from those in power, we almost lost our most unique city. Luckily, there is a spirit in New Orleans that is part of what makes the city so special, and despite everything, the city works every day to pull itself back up. This book should be required classroom reading for decades to come.

    Never forget.

    Re-Cover, Re-Build, Re-New Orleans

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2006

    Point of view from a displaced evacuee in Amarillo, TX

    This book is indeed an eye-opener. I'd already read several non-fiction novels about natural disasters prior to Hurricane Katrina. The best one was 'Rising Tide' about the flood of 1927 across the Mississippi Delta. As a Louisiana native, I'd read about Hurricanes Audrey, Camille, and Betsy. I'd been through two of those personally & survived the horrors of Hurricane Andrew. Despite that, I felt it necessary to keep myself on the edge & not become lazy in my storm prep efforts like so many others. We evacuated the day before the storm & got hit by it in Mississippi as a Cat 1 hurricane. We lost TV for about a day & a half. I needed to be filled in on what happened during that time period and Doug Brinkley delivered the info. There are so many things that are impressive about this book, so many stories that are told about survivors & the situations they endured. The problem I had with the author is that he is too preachy. His points are valid & on target -- however, redundancy is not a good thing in a work of non-fiction. The comparison for me has to be 'Rising Tide'. The author of that book gives the facts & reasons for the flood gives an accounting of the governmental faults that helped to make everything worse and leaves it to the reader to provide any external bias. He also gives a lot of nuance about the history of New Orleans & why it became the way it is. Very good book. In contrast, 'The Great Deluge' brings the nuance the pain the humility the suffering the tragedy in a way that makes you feel like you are there while you read it. Again, his bias is the only bad point. Not only did he drive his point home, he knocked down the foundation on which the house actually sat. By page 580, I'd had enough of the preaching & couldn't take any more. Like a good survivor, I read it through to the end. I must recommend this book because the truth about these horrific events should be told. Just be ready to be hit over the head with the injustices of the Bush administration, Homeland Security & that Nagin guy, over & over, & over, & over again. In some ways it is justifiable -- the people who suffered through this probably felt a lot worse than you will while you are reading this. They too needed someone to blame for their misery -- that's natural. The people who allowed this tragedy to persist should be held accountable -- that hasn't happened yet. It may still happen if you read this and it helps you make decisions about who should be running the country -- then it was worth it all.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 12, 2012

    Awsome book!

    Awsome book!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2007

    A deeply flawed book

    The first large recap of the disaster, published six months after the storm by the well known Tulane historian. A deeply flawed book, due to factual errors and the author¿s blatant political pronouncements. Brinkley¿s science is wrong, and he misrepresents what happened at locations other than the Superdome and Convention Center, such as Tulane Hospital and the Aquarium of the Americas. Brinkley supported Lt. Governor Landrieu against Mayor Nagin in the New Orleans mayoral race in the spring of 2006, and it colors his writing. Brinkley has nothing good to say about President Bush, FEMA, or Mayor Nagin, yet he paints Governor Blanco 'who cooperated with the book' in the most flattering light possible. Worse, he gives the news media a pass over their horrendous coverage. Still, the book is worth reading 'with a huge grain of salt' because of the extensive timeline offered and the stories of the people affected. His recounting of the heroic efforts of the US Coast Guard and the LA Wildlife & Fisheries personnel is worth the price of the book. Read it until a better one comes out.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2007

    The Great Deluge: A Great Disappointment

    The Great Deluge was a great disappointment¿because it fails to deliver what was reasonably expected. The author's statement that he 'relied on newspaper reporters quite a bit' explains why the book reads more like a tedious recycle of what was typically available in the daily papers than a top historian's above-the-fray assessment of what happened, why it happened, and what could have happened. Merely reciting what happened without a lot more rigorous analysis is not very helpful. Two axioms quickly come to mind after reading The Great Deluge. Number one is 'The first report is always wrong.' That is what typically happens when 'scholarship' is served up 'fast out of the gates'¿as Brinkley put it. The real meat of the story should be the causes, not the excuses, for the abysmal failure of local and state government officials to plan ahead for a well-known threat widely regarded as inevitable. Solid disaster response planning necessarily begins at the local level, and yet it was not done. Why not? The only thing the City of New Orleans did was inadvertently provide real-world information on what follows incompetence of such magnitude. Theoretical models are less necessary now because post-Katrina New Orleans is a historical fact, not just disaster planning worst-case theory. Instead of placing the primary responsibility for the aftermath of Katrina squarely on the mayor and state officials, where it clearly belongs, Brinkley played local politics and tried to deflect much of the blame to federal officials¿as if they could magically make all of the needed help appear at the proper time and place without any of the necessary prior planning and coordination. To be sure, there were shortcomings and lessons learned at the federal level, but they were microscopic compared to years of neglect by New Orleans and Louisiana officials. After describing that neglect, it was then totally absurd for Brinkley to then turn around and let city and state officials off the hook by lamely claiming that 'right after the storm city and state leaders were doing their best with whatever they had' (p. 618). An honest assessment would say that was way too little, way too late. What is almost as unfathomable is the re-election of the Mayor Ray Nagin after Katrina. The other axiom?¿'You reap what you sow.'

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2006

    Suffering Continues

    If you suffered through Katrina and her aftermath, you'll suffer anew when you read this book. It is a thoroughly bad piece of writing so full of factual errors and editorializing that one hesitates to call it history-or scholarship. To those of us who know New Orleans, the Gulf Coast, and the actual people named (sometimes incorrectly) in this book, this is one more insult tossed our way, to be added to the harm done in the wake of this tragedy. New Orleans and the Gulf Coast deserve better.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2006

    A biased, political attack disguised as 'reporting'

    Page after page (I received an advance copy) is Brinkley's own personal take on post-Katrina New Orleans. Where he was, what he saw, and who he didn't see. It's the last item, who Brinkley didn't see, that seems to have troubled him the most. Brinkley fashions what could have been a concrete, timely, well-reasoned overview of the 8 days after Katrina into a political diatribe against the failures of Ray Nagin as mayor of New Orleans. Brinkley widens his scope to Baton Rouge only to inlcude comments that are negative about Nagin from Governor Blanco and selected elected officials. Wait for a 'Katrina-aftermath' book with more focus and a book written by an author without a political ax to grind. Skip this one. At least wait for the New Orleans election to conclude before considering buying this 700-page attack.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2011

    Errors are glaring and easliy verified.

    If you choose to read this book, do so with a jaundiced eye. The errors that I found, and verified with the people that were involved, are just egregious. Knowing the errors, makes me doubt that other "facts" are incorrect as well. I must question the veracity of the things I am not able to verify. How can the only untruths be the ones I was able to spot outright? I am not referring to the overwhelming political bias of the author, which is so blatant that it is hard to wade through, but facts about the Aquarium and physical locations of events that are not possible. Professor, if this is what passes as a "scholarly" tome, our universities are in deep trouble. Caveat emptor - let the buyer beware. Better yet, borrow it from the library and don't pay for this one.

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  • Posted August 30, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Recommended!

    The first half of the first chapter is dry...but its a necessary part of the book b/c it tells of the founding of N.O. more than 300 years ago. I am finishing the 1st chapter and after reading about the politics and culture of the city--the distant past and leading up to Katrins--I am not surprised that the tragedy that was the aftermath of occurred. I cant wait to finish this book...thus far its well-written and very informative.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2010

    Very Detailed; Very GOOD

    This book was very detailed. It followed a lot of different stories from every side of the Katrina disaster. I was outraged by a lot of the things I read in this book; which i beleive was part of what the author wanted to convey. In all, i found it a very good read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2008

    It is a hear breaking story

    This is a very well written book, about the events,politics, and government resposne to the disaster in New Orleans.I really was moved by the story, heard the author in Boston discuss the writing and parts of the book. I grew up in the area in the northern part of the state and was moved by the book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2007

    Interesting Book

    I already knew quite a bit of the information presented in Mr. Brinkley's book, but I enjoyed the process of reading the information in chronological order. I found myself sincerely shocked again by the lack of urgency to help the folks of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. The book does give a sense of the citizen's level of stress, and it is disturbing. The stories of looting were terrible, and equally terrible, it is puzzling to understand how Nagin was relected mayor of New Orleans.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 2006

    Great Book!!!

    I personally have heard different stories from my friends and of course I have my own story on experiences through Katrina. This book pretty much told stories exactly the same way my friends and I have experienced Katrina. This is the one book that doesnt just focus on New Orleans. I was so happy that someone decided to get the facts directly from people and from different parishes. I enjoyed this book. Well worth the money. I have recommended it to everyone I know. Thanks for such a great book on Katrina.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2006

    Where are the maps?

    Douglas G. Brinkley's 'The Great Deluge' is a commendable analysis of Hurricane Katrina's impact on NOLA during the first week of its aftermath. Yet, Brinkley, the historian, has omitted maps to give visual detail to his reader, and he has omitted essential tables of resources available, deployed, refused. In my opinion, these are critical deficiencies in a scholarly work.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2006

    An Amazing Book

    This book is an important read. I have learned so many things in so many diffferent categories. The details are non-stop. The book shows the best and the worst of humanity. Facts mixed with personal stories. Very thought-provoking.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 3, 2006

    Eye opener

    It was heart breaking watching this tragedy take place last year but reading the details in Douglas Brinkley's book was even more shameful. Natural disasters happen. It's how we react and recover from them that matters. We failed with Katrina and if we don't learn from these mistakes we'll repeat them.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    An eye-opener

    Almost four years after 9/11 Hurricane Katrina proved that we are still not ready for a colossal disaster. That is the prime premise of Tulane University Professor Brinkley¿s insightful look at the deluge after the Hurricane devastated the Gulf Coast. He provides anecdotal stories of heroism and success, but also condemns the failures of politicians, democrat or republican, local, state or national, who acted more like Nero than Giuliani. In the professor¿s opinion interestingly the storm proved to be the first act of a three act tragic drama. Following the five hours of the hurricane hammering New Orleans, a post storm surge flooded much of the area. Finally days later, the spins and, accusations with nobody willing to accept the failure is mind-boggling. Using real events Brinkley condemns Nagin, Blanco, Barbour, Brown, Chertoff, and Bush as going down in history as symbols of failure while the real heroes are the first responders like a Coast Guard officer taking trapped people to safer spots and locals like the person ferrying without regard to his own life neighbors to safer locales these many nameless are urban legends who risked their lives. While Brown got the right tie, Blanco and Barbour whined in their state capitals about no federal assistance, and Bush attended a party fund raiser before his Hollywood show in Jackson Square, Mr. Brinkley makes a subjective case that we nationally failed the first true test of Homeland Security though many acted courageously to save others. This fascinating look at the aftermath is summed up by the passerby who shouted ¿F you Cheney¿. ------------ Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2006

    There is nothing more powerful than the truth

    Speaking as a first reponder who has witnessed many of these events personally, I must say that no other individual has shed so much light on the true events following the devistation of Hurricane Katrina. Cutting through the governmental cover-ups, deception and lies, Brinkley gets to the heart of the matter in this refreshingly honest and straight forward account of what was really happening at the time. Unafraid to hold accountable those still in power, The Great Deluge allows the reader to escape the masterful spin of FEMA and The Bush Administration as well as attempts to hide Ray Nagin's mental breakdown during the Cresent City's most crucial hour. Brinkley has once again proven himself a masterful historian and writer as well as an example of what real American Patriotism is. Thank-you, Mr. Brinkley. You have given your city, country, and state one of the greatest gifts they could receive, the truth.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2006

    The TRUTH must hurt....

    Regardless of what some may say, this is a great book, unless of course you are a Ray Nagin supporter. Bottom line is Nagin was inept and showed ZERO leadership. All of what Brinkley writes here is documented by FACTUAL footnotes, so those who say it was 'partisan' writing, obviously can't handle the truth. Nagin did NOTHING until it was too late, and don't take what Brinkley says here, just listen to what all those that were there have to say. New Yorkers can thank God that Nagin wasn't the mayor during 9/11.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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