Tom Fleming

What Lies Beneath

A Crack in the Edge of the World: The Great American Earthquake of 1906

By Simon Winchester

Viking 412pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

The allure of California – its climate, its mineral wealth – has always been offset by its precarious position on the geological map. The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 saw a city that had gotten rich quick thanks to the gold rush find its fertile ground being torn from under it; but, as Simon Winchester’s thorough account of the disaster makes clear, it was geological innocence rather than any innate Californian hubris – or general ineptitude – that allowed the earthquake to have such an effect.

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