Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War

Author: Nathanial Philbrick
Narrator: George Guidall

Published by: Penguin Audio (May 2006)

Length: 12 hours, 30 minutes
My rating: 4/5

Before I review this book, I should add a disclaimer that I am not an expert on history, so I can't judge on historical accuracy, depth of research, etc.--I'm just an average Jane who wanted to learn a little bit more about the voyage of the Mayflower! And this was an excellent book for that purpose. Philbrick's aim is to take the well-known "myths" of the Pilgrims and Indians of the Plymouth area, and fill them in with more accurate and detailed accounts of their experiences and challenges. He does this in a very neutral manner, highlighting the good, the bad, and the ugly of all involved. I was worried after reading the preface that it would be a very cynical expose of the greediness and cruelty of the supposedly pious Pilgrims, but it wasn't that way at all. The first part of the book tells the story of the Pilgrims: their persecution and escape to Holland, their miserable 9-week voyage to America, and their struggles to establish a colony in the face of death, sickness, and the fear of hostile Indians. I loved the details about individuals--that's what makes history interesting to me--the people involved. The second half of the book did not quite capture my attention as much. After 50 years of a tenacious struggle to keep peace, war broke out between the Pilgrims and Native Americans, culminating in King Philip's War, proportionately the bloodiest war in American history. I found myself spacing out a bit during this part of the audiobook--I think it didn't have as much of the human-interest aspect of the beginning.
All in all it was an excellent "listen." It is a little difficult listening to a history book because you don't always know which parts are quoted from sources and which are the authors words. Sometimes it's obvious due to the differences in language, but other times it is not too clear. Other than that it was fascinating and easy to follow. I would definitely recommend this book to others, but I would suggest reading it in November! It sounds silly, but I wish I had saved it for closer to Thanksgiving!

I also watched Desperate Crossing, a History Channel account of the Pilgrims and their journey. In both the book and the "docudrama, " I felt that taking a way the "myth" did not take away my awe of what these people went through and the some of the ideals they established. And most of all, I'm so glad I did not have to give birth on the Mayflower, as one woman did (I can't remember her name, but I think she named her child Oceanus). Dark, dirty, and no painkiller. The did have a lot of beer, though. I bet she had her fair share that day!

Here's a behind the scenes look at Desperate Crossing:


  1. I so want to read this book. It is on my list but I think your review is the first one I've read on a blog.
    Now I am going to see if my library has the documentary as well because I want to watch that now too.

  2. I loved this book, too. I handed the book off to my father, who also liked it. I was really taken with the idea that had they been able to stand just one more day in the ship they could have founded what is now Boston -- how different their lives would have been! Nice review. I'll have to check out the documentary.

  3. Hi, I think I'm new here (followed you from EveryDayReads/Ltheaded) and I just had to leave a note that I READ THIS, too! in '07. Anyway...
    I'm going to go read more posts now. :)