PANAMA PASSAGE by Donald Barr Chidsey


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I liked this -- and learned a lot effortlessly, about a subject on which my knowledge was -- to put it mildly -- spotty, -- the building of the Panama Canal. It is a story of dogged determination, of courage to face danger, disease, probable death, and discomfort, of vision to see beyond the confusion of the present, and of loyalty to an idea and to the few principals who stood by it. Harry Kellems, young engineer, leaves a newly married wife to go to Panama to seek at least enough of a fortune to keep his spoiled, rich, heedless Phyllis in some degree of comfort. And then she follows him -- and en route meets and is fascinated by a soldier of fortune, Capt. Ward Wright, who turns out to be the chief menac to the Canal's completion, and Harry's bitterest enemy. The emotional conflicts are further intensified by Harry's unconfessed love for Madeline Dasmoulins, whose father, an aristocrat and survivor of the French debacle, hated all Americans. But Harry believes in Phyl -- and stands by her -- though all of Panama gossips. Their story is told against the panorama of a great engineering feat, beset with disaster, marred by hatreds and jealousies, and finally accomplished to the lasting credit of two men, Dr. Gorgas, who conquered the yellow peril, and Col. Goethals, who came late, but saw the Canal through to success. An historical novel with an unusual setting -- and a good story as well.

Pub Date: Feb. 21st, 1945
Publisher: Doubleday, Doran