Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday Review: A Voyage Long and Strange

This is going to be a weekly feature, I think. I have a ton of books and movies I'd like to talk about, so stay tuned on Sundays for my recommendations. :)

I bought A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World by Tony Horwitz after reading somewhere that fans of Bill Bryson are likely to enjoy Horwitz' work. Bill Bryson, of course, is the brilliantly hilarious author of Notes From a Small Island, one of my favorite books to read and re-read.

I love a good travel story mixed with history and information, so Horwitz was a pleasant surprise. In Voyage, he takes the reader on a journey to the "New World," starting with the Vikings who settled Greenland and parts of present-day Canada, through the Spanish Conquistadors and their "God is on our side" attitude, right up to the inevitable Puritans who eventually made a go of this whole United States thing. In his adventures, he finds that much of what he learned in school about the history of the America's--what we all learned--was actually re-written and revised in the years since it happened until it hardly resembles the real truth.

If you are interested in history, there is plenty to chew on, but this is not your normal, dry tome about events that happened many years ago. In order to really get a feel for the places he researched, Horwitz set out on his own long and strange voyage around the New World, meeting a variety of people and bringing back delightful stories of his encounters.

The book is, of course, sad, as it explores in some depth the decimation of the Native American cultures that simply couldn't fight back against disease and the far more sophisticated weaponry of the new settlers.

Horwitz is an excellent researcher, and uses a dry humor reminiscent of Bryson's throughout the book. Voyage is well-written, engaging, and sets many myths of American History straight. Renew your passport and don't miss this voyage!

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