This book was not quite what I was expecting, or if I'm honest, hoping for. I was looking for a history of the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. And this is that history, but only if you start about 150 million years ago. I suppose I was looking for a social history, and what I got was mostly a geological history!
I learned more than I ever wanted to about New Geology, seismology, plate tectonics, fault lines, slip-strike lines, seismographs - but what I really wanted was the personal histories, the experiences of people who lived through the quake, the impact on the community, the rebuilding, the tragedies, the triumphs. There is some small element of this, but not enough for my tastes. The actual quake doesn't even hit until page 201!
That Winchester managed to keep me reading that long, that I not only read this but read it in a matter of days and still enjoyed it, despite all the geology, is testament to his skills as a writer. I've read a number of his other books, and he is truly an excellent writer and historian - he manages to make what in other hands might be an immensely dull read relatively engaging, and that's a real gift.