A great, mythbusting yarn
Many reviews I've seen of Mayflower criticize the author for (a) poor choice of book title, (b) shoddy history, (c) boring prose. The mixed reviews on this prevented me from purchasing the book for quite some time, until curiosity got the better of
Many reviews I've seen of Mayflower criticize the author for (a) poor choice of book title, (b) shoddy history, (c) boring prose. The mixed reviews on this prevented me from purchasing the book for quite some time, until curiosity got the better of me. </p><p>While little can be said about whether a book is boring or not (to each his own), I'd advise those lamenting the book's title to start reading labels - it was very clear on the back cover (you didn't even need to crack the book) what this story was about. Similarly, to those self-proclaimed historians - get out of the pop-history aisle and start buying textbooks. Nowhere does Philbrick claim to be a professional historian; he is a writer and journalist, and having recently finished Mayflower I feel that his 2007 Pulitzer nomination was well-deserved... Mayflower is a crackin' good read. </p><p>In the prologue Philbrick makes it clear that he uses not only standard sources for his story, but also oral history & traditions from the Native Americans of the region in an attempt to tell a balanced story of the first settlers in Plymouth, their struggles, their successes and failures, and the ultimate unravelling of what had been delicately created through the bias and shortsightedness of subsequent generations culminating in "King Phillip's War". This bias and shortsightedness can be claimed by both sides, although Philbrick levels a larger portion at the English/Pilgrims/Puritans - choose your label - and, for my money, he backs it up nicely. What makes Puritan culpability more believable is that we see the same mistakes being made today by arguably better educated and more world-wise governments. </p><p>Mayflower isn't all roses. I would like to have seen Philbrick spend a little more time on some of the better known aspects of the Pilgrim national myth - the time in England and Holland, the first Thanksgiving, etc. - but the story doesn't suffer for it. In fact, I would have welcomed another 50 pages, or so, in such a well-written book. </p><p>All said, I found Mayflower to be a great read - exposing time-honored myths in a believable way that does not diminish the accomplishments of the passengers of that ship one iota. Removing the romantic patina that's built up over the years allows us to appreciate the story more - warts and all. </p><p>Maybe we can even learn something from this...