Critical Context

Barometer Rising was Hugh MacLennan’s first published novel. It was written during the darkest days of a second world war, before the United States entered, in which Canada was playing a more vital and independent role than she did in the first. Paradoxically, then, the Halifax explosion that devastated the city helped the barometer of nationhood rise toward fair. Edmund Wilson’s summing up of the novel is therefore singularly apt. “It seems to me,” he wrote, “that Barometer Rising should not merely be accepted, as it is, as a landmark in Canadian writing but also, as an artistic success, [it should] be regarded as one of [Canada’s] authentic classics.” Although the novel did not win one of the coveted Governor General’s Literary Awards, as did several of MacLennan’s later works, it was a good omen of what was to come and remains among the two or three most successful that he has written.