Before there were 13 colonies, there was New Netherland. Founded by the Dutch, this tiny community on the edge of the wilderness supported a staggering array of peoples: Norwegians, Germans, Italians, free and slave Africans, Jews, Bohemians, Mohawk Indians, and more. Surrounded by intolerant Puritans, New Netherland took its cues from Amsterdam, Europe's most liberal city. Inevitably the Dutch and the English clashed, and a new nation was born.
With an extraordinary cast of real-life characters, including Rene Descartes and James, the Duke of York, The Island at the Center of the World is a riveting narrative and a landmark in the chronicles of American history.
©2004 Russell Shorto; (P)2004 Recorded Books, LLC
"An important work." (Booklist)
"New York history buffs will be captivated by Shorto's descriptions of Manhattan in its primordial state, of bays full of salmon and oysters, and blue plums and fields of wild strawberries in what is now Midtown." (The New York Times Book Review)
"Shorto reconstructs, in fascinating detail, the little-told story behind the Dutch settlement and its capital, Manhattan....It's hard to imagine any narrator's voice remaining fresh and compelling through 15 hours of sweeping historical narrative, but Ganser comes close." (Publishers Weekly)
This book takes what could be a fascinating story and makes it quite tedious. Jumping back and forth in time confuses a narrative that is engaging enough to be taken on chronologically and a highly repetitive prose style eventually becomes quite grating - how many times do we need to be reminded of the trading rituals of the Mohawks and the Mohicans? Most distracting though is the narration. In no other audiobook have I been able to notice the loud breathing of the reader so overtly. I don't know whether that inhalation is edited out in other recordings, but I've never come across the narrator's breathing actually distracting me from the recitation of the story until now. Also, the narrator sounds like this is the first time he is reading the book: sometimes his intonation is off and the stress falls on the wrong syllable, his pronunciation of Dutch words is not consistent throughout the book and his transitions from English sentences to include a Dutch term is clunky, like he's guessing how the word should sound, in the strangest pseudo-nonspecific central European accent. Not a terrible book by any means, but the narration detracts considerably from the enjoyment of it.
Obsessive reader, 6-10 books a week, chosen from Member reviews. Fact & fiction, subjects from the Tudors to Tookie, Harlem to Hiroshima, Huey Long to Huey Newton. In-depth fair reviews - from front to BLACK!!!
Compelling, informative, and educational
I'm not sure there was any "pivotal" memorable moment, at least not for me. What I was most pleased about was to learn that Manhattan's early history contained much more than being purchased (stolen? bamboozled?) from the resident Native Americans for $24 dollars worth of cheap beads.
L.J. Ganser made what could have been an overwhelming account into an easy to understand story which moves along without getting bogged down with minutiae.
"The Great American City Worth More Than Its Weight In Beads"
Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. C.S. Lewis
The first Shorto work I read was DeCartes' Bones and I enjoyed it. This work is also entertaining, but if I were the editor I would have encouraged Shorto to stick closer to the historical story and spend less time drawing conclusions of how the early colony affected the character of Manhattan and the United States. It's a valid point, but I felt that Shorto referred it too often.
as someone who enjoys history and audio books this was not a good choice. it's the first book from audible which i've abandoned. there is no cohesive narrative and it's very confusing to follow. skip it
I always enjoy historical novels, but I must say the author made the most of this material. There were a few short sections that dragged, but overall this book actually had me as excited to get in the car as a good mystery where I want to know who did it. The narrator's his voice and inflection added rather than detracted from the overall experience.
I have listened to this book twice, and will never look at US history the same way I did in the past. By learning about New York's founding, I now have a far greater understanding about what makes it tick, and how important it was to the founding 'fathers' from New York (with Dutch ancestory) that the US Bill of Rights protect religious freedom and nurture a tolerant society.
This is a great book, revealing some history that is only hinted at in high school textbooks - if taught at all. It shows how much we may owe our national character - and certainly New York City's character - to the more enlightened and tolerant Dutch colonists rather than the supertitious and merciless Puritans or those snobbish Quakers (I can say that because I am a Quaker descendant). These are my words and biases, not the author's by the way. He has a much better and wittier way with words.
I love history, and I love reading histories. This author manages to take a fascinating subject, a priceless source of material, and turn it into the most tedious narrative possible. The author somehow managed to suck all of the life out of this story. It reminds me of how Civil War afficionados can, in their own fascination, manage to bore everyone around them DESPITE the material.
Absolutely avoidable alliteration abounds--was there no editor for this book?!?
Way too much time is spent telling us what he's going to talk about, rather than actually telling us what he has to say! The prologue lasts 35 minutes. (!!!)
Some fun trivia for the history buffs, but I was expecting much more than this based on other reviews.
The audio version of this book is enhanced through the correct pronunciation of all the Dutch names and words. Rather than wildly guessing as I read it, it is spoken correctly for me.
This is the story of the first multi-ethnic culture in America. Truly, Manhattan has been a melting pot since the founding of New Amsterdam.
I never knew the story behind Dutch Manhattan other than they bought it from the Indians for $24. The rest of that story is here as well as how the island bounced back and forth five times between the Dutch and English. Dutch influenced early American and still today through such contributions as cookies, cole slaw, the district attorney and such families names as Roosevelt.
I think this would've been a tough read, but was painting my bathroom and totally enjoyed the story!
I love the factoids that so much of what makes America unique can be traced to that original Dutch colony.
That it was so difficult to piece together. That yes, history is written by the victors and this has so much to intrigue and amaze. I have been trying to relay it to my husband and 13 year old.
Highly recommend. A fascinating perspective on American history.
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