Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick

Not exactly a page turner like "In the Heart of the Sea" by the same author - but a revealing slice of early American life. There is not much on the voyage itself, the book concentrates on the fight for survival in the first few years. This fight was initially against starvation and then against the indigenous Indians that they were supplanting. There was not much to give thanks for on the first anniversary of their landing, half of the 102 that sailed were dead from scurvy and malnutrition. Their religious preciousness was soon forgotten in the battle for food and land. The most abiding impression you get is how amazingly resourceful they had to be after arriving in virgin New England: building, farming, trading, and fighting. A lot of the book describes various battles and skirmishes - mostly of course from a pilgrim perspective as the Indians left no records. The pilgrims had a nasty penchant for sticking Indian heads on spikes for the delectation of the populace. While the Indians were great men for the scalping. The book is strong on anecdote and character but a little weak on the broader picture - the role of England, the French, the other colonies etc.