Sunday, May 20, 2012
AN IDEA FOR THE BLOG
I have had some down-time recently because of having been ill, with the result I have been reading more. The other day I e-mailed two of my sons, recommending the latest book I am reading, James Michener’s “Caribbean.” I have read a number of Michener’s historical novels, but never “Caribbean,” and yet I live in Florida now, right on top of the Caribbean. Time to learn about it, I think! I’m halfway through the book (it is a tome). It is fascinating and so informative.
It made me think that a good use of the Blog might be to share what we have enjoyed about certain books with other bloggers. Do you think that would be a good idea? What are your thoughts, Dave? This has been done to some extent in the UCO Reporter.
For those of you who don’t know, Michener was a scholar. His historical novels are scrupulously researched. One can learn a lot about historical events and personages from them. The following is part of what I wrote the boys about “Caribbean”:
The thought suddenly came to me that you might be interested in it--especially since you enjoyed "We, the Drowned." There are similarities in that much of the book has to do with sailing vessels, the action takes place over a period of time (a few centuries), and it is a historical novel based on many facts that have been discovered or handed down.
The book is about how the Caribbean came to be settled by white men and the phases each island went through, right into the 20th Century. It describes the differences between the islands and which were settled first and which later. As in "Drowned," it is a story throughout, some of fictional characters and some of real historical characters. Michener is known for his research and accuracy, so as with any of his books you need not worry that they are wild tales with no basis in fact. Except, I should say, when he attempts to tell a story about prehistoric societies. Then he can be very speculative. There isn't much of this, however, in "Caribbean," and even in his other books, this occurs only in the beginning of them. He soon gets on to times about which there is documentary evidence.
There is plenty about sailing and ships, fighting and storms, the slave trade, and piracy in "Caribbean." The Spanish had control of virtually all of the Caribbean at first; then Britain, Holland and France got in on the act. There is much fighting on the ships and on the land, a lot of torture, killing, and sinking of ships. You learn about some of the well-known pirates and which ones worked for which countries. (That's right, a number of them were unofficially in the employ of governments.)
P.S. The book is actually about more than the Caribbean as we think of the Caribbean islands. There is a very interesting chapter on the Mayans, in Mexico. Their knowledge of astronomy was amazing. They had a calendar more accurate than any calendar in use in Europe or elsewhere in the world—equivalent, I would guess, to our present-day Gregorian calendar. Panama comes into the picture, including about those who tried to cross the isthmus (this was before the Panama Canal, of course)—and to some extent, the Magellan Straits and Cape Horn.