The Mayflower's religious refugees arrived in Plymouth Harbor during a period of crisis for Native Americans as disease spread by European fishermen devastated their populations. Initially the two groups, the Wampanoags, under the charismatic and calculating chief Massasoit, and the Pilgrims, whose pugnacious military officer Miles Standish was barely five feet tall, maintained a fragile working relationship. But within decades, New England would erupt into King Philip's War, a savagely bloody conflict that nearly wiped out English colonists and natives alike and forever altered the face of the fledgling colonies and the country that would grow from them.
With towering figures like William Bradford and the distinctly American hero Benjamin Church at the center of his narrative, Philbrick has fashioned a fresh and compelling portrait of the dawn of American history, a history dominated right from the start by issues of race, violence, and religion.
©2006 Nathaniel Philbrick; (P)2006 Penguin Audio, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., and Recorded Books, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Impeccably researched and expertly rendered, Philbrick's account brings the Plymouth Colony and its leaders...vividly to life. More importantly, he brings into focus a gruesome period in early American history." (Publishers Weekly)
My interests run to psychology, popular science, history, world literature, and occasionally something fun like Jasper Fforde. It seems like the only free time I have for reading these days is when I'm in the car so I am extremely grateful for audio books. I started off reading just the contemporary stuff that I was determined not to clutter up my already stuffed bookcases with. And now audio is probably 90% of my "reading" matter.
I was expecting this to be the story of the Pilgrims, and I was looking forward to reading a detailed account instead of the pablum we all get in school. However, the Pilgrims are just the starting point. It's really about the clash of cultures and how the situation devolved from the idyllic scenario that's usually presented to the pattern that would repeat itself over and over in American history. It's an epic story and food for thought for anyone who wants to understand what it takes for peoples to live in peace with each other and why it's so hard. As for the Pilgrims, it leaves me wondering whether they're even deserving of having a whole book devoted to them.
I enjoy Philbrick's books, including this one. Because of Philbrick's nautical expertise, I was expecting more about the actual Mayflower (its outfitting, the crossing, data about ships of the period or transatlantic sailings of the time). There's not a lot on this but a good deal on the early life of the pilgrims in New England, most of which was interesting. The rest of the book is about the war between the native Indians and the pilgrims and puritans. Though I learned a lot here, it seems that Philbrick had trouble deciding what to include and what to leave out. So Roger Williams' Rhode Island settlement comes in and out of the story as needed; we learn at the end of settlements in Maine and their fights with the natives, but we don't learn when Maine was settled, by whom, etc. So the second part is not a comprehensive history of the 17th century in America, though at times it feels as though the author wants to write one.
The narrator--George Guidall-- is good, though I prefer him in fiction, where he is tops.
We listened to this as a family on a long car ride. It kept everyone listening most of the time, which is my gauge of a 4 star rating. (Ages of kids are 11-17, but they're true history buffs...)
The first third or so of the book deals with the Pilgrims, the Mayflower, and the founding of the Plymouth Colony. I greatly enjoyed that part of the book. From there the narrative drifts from the Pilgrims to a history of relations with the local Indians. Most of the book deals with the breakdown of these relations and ends with King Philip's War.
This is the second nonfiction I've read by Nathaniel Philbrick. The first was "In The Heart of The Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex." Both have been page turners for me.
Before I read "Mayflower," I only *thought* I knew the story. Philbrick cleared up some false impressions, shed light on incorrect but long-held beliefs, and filled in a lot of blanks. I found it all quite captivating.
If you're not inclined to read "Mayflower," for whatever reason, I strongly encourage you to try "In The Heart of the Sea." Don't think for a second that it might bore you. You'll miss an exciting account of a true event in history that eventually influenced Herman Melville in the writing of "Moby Dick." (Oh, I forgot: I read Philbrick's "Why Read Moby Dick." I have "Sea of Glory" on my bookshelf waiting for my attention. And, if anyone's interested in Custer, he has written "The Last Stand." So much to read, so little time.)
Max Fisher of Rushmore Academy
This was an outstanding look at a key period of American history. The narrative was engaging, the stories were compelling, and the reading was flawless.
The book's title really only describes the first half of the book.
The first half of this book is interesing and right on point. It is the story behind the Pilgrims, their voyage and what drove them to take the risks they did. I was very pleased until, about half way through, the book turned into a drawn-out, detailed account of the wars with the Native-Americans that came several decades after the Pilgrims arrival. While the wars with the Native-Americans may be interesting to some, it was not the reason I bought this book and the accounts of the battles bored me.
If you're buying this because you want to hear the story of the Pilgrims, you'll be happy for the first half of the book. Unless you're really interested in the details of the Native-American wars and are ready to keep track of all the tribes and leaders, the second half will bore you greatly.
mostly nonfiction listener
Mayflower is straight ahead historical narrative in the old-fashioned style. This is the books strength and weakness. Strength because the story of the Pilgrims is both essential and compelling. I grew up in Boston and was a history major in college, and yet my understanding of the facts, dates, names, of the Pilgrims is all too hazy. This book helps. The weakness is that I felt often overloaded by the narrative, with Philbrick unwilling to draw broad conclusions or themes from the Pilgrim's experience. Still, I'm pretty excited to bring the girls to Plymouth Plantation.
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