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Fire In The Grove: The Cocoanut Grove Tragedy And Its Aftermath

1 rating: 5.0
2005 non-fiction book by John C. Esposito

Saturday night, November 28, 1942, Boston suffered its worst disaster ever. At the city's premier nightspot, the Cocoanut Grove, the largest nightclub fire in United States history took the lives of 492 people-nearly one of every two people on the premises. … see full wiki

Author: John Esposito
Genre: Non-fiction
Publisher: De Capo Press
Date Published: November 7, 2005
1 review about Fire In The Grove: The Cocoanut Grove Tragedy...

The story of the fire at the Cocoanut Grove is all too familiar.

  • Dec 2, 2008
It seems to me that I have read it too may times before.  Back in 1903 a total of 602 people, mostly women and children, perished in a fire at a matinee at the Iroquois Theater in Chicago.  Six years later 259 miners were killed in a fire at a coal mine in Cherry Il.  And in 1911 another 146 young immigrant workers lost their lives at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory in New York City.  It just breaks your heart to read about the deaths of so many due to the greed, incompetence and irresponsibility of others.  Now in 2006 author John C. Esposito, an original member of "Nader's Raiders" offers up "Fire In The Grove: The Cocoanut Grove Tragedy And Its Aftermath".  This is the stirring account of that tragic evening in November 1942 when 490 people lost their lives at the fabled Cocoanut Grove night club in downtown Boston.  It remains to this day the deadliest nightclub fire in American history.  And as so often is the case it did not have to happen!

Let me begin by saying that I could not put this book down.  I consumed this book in its entirety in less than two days.  John Esposito paints a very vivid picture of just what was going on inside the walls of the Cocoanut Grove on that fateful night.  Esposito spends a good deal of time describing the floor plan of the nightclub.  His verbal description is supplemented by a very useful illustration that the reader can refer to when needed.  It quickly becomes apparent the many obstacles that patrons would face when attempting to evacuate this complex.  Due to the gross negligence of management and others most of those that died never had a chance.

So just who was responsible for the holocaust at the Cocoanut Grove?  As you will learn in "Fire In The Grove" there is no shortage of potential candidates.  Barney Welansky had owned the Cocoanut Grove for nearly a decade.  This was a well- connected individual and city officials like Mayor Tobin and Fire Commisioner Reilly tended to look the other way with regards to safety issues at the club.  Many would place the blame on lower level bureaucrats from various city departments whose job it was to enforce a myriad of safety regulations.   Enforcement of these rules codes and requirements at the Cocoanut Grove were lax to say the least.  Later on in "Fire In The Grove" you will learn about the subsequent investigations and of the trial that would take place just a few months after the fire.

 Finally, John Esposito offers a comparison of the Cocoanut Grove fire and the blaze at The Station nightclub in West Warwick, RI that killed 100 people in 2003.   It seems that in a great many ways the circumstances were eerily similar.  All in al,l I found "Fire In The Grove: The Cocoanut Grove Tragedy And Its Aftermath" to be a terrific read.  Being a native New Englander I had heard about this tragedy since I was a child but I had never really read all that much about it. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and can enthusiastically recommend it.
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