The Washington Post
The Pilgrimby Hugh Nissenson
Charles Wentworth, a heartbroken Puritan, comes to the New World from England in 1622 in search of salvation and a new beginning. Burdened with a lifelong struggle between his desire for faith and his doubts about God's love for him, he leaves the only land he has ever known after the death of his fiancée, in hopes of being freed of the temptations that
Charles Wentworth, a heartbroken Puritan, comes to the New World from England in 1622 in search of salvation and a new beginning. Burdened with a lifelong struggle between his desire for faith and his doubts about God's love for him, he leaves the only land he has ever known after the death of his fiancée, in hopes of being freed of the temptations that torment him.
A new masterpiece from National Book Award and Pen/Faulkner Award finalist Hugh Nissenson, The Pilgrim explores the foundation myths of America, a country settled by people intoxicated by the pursuit of God and yearning for redemption and freedom.
The Washington Post
"Nissenson's latest (The Days of Awe, 2005, etc.) is a marvelously intimate look back through time. Charles' fears and desires are made quite believable as he recalls the everyday horrors of the time-and the bits of Scripture that both justified and aggravated them. And while the young protagonist earnestly seeks salvation, his all-too-human failings-such as when he and the pretty Abigail Winslow flirt on the Sabbath-make him as sympathetic as any young striver since Holden Caulfield. The author's return to historical fiction raises human questions with immediacy and flair."
Nissenson has penned a bleak, unsparing novel, peopled with flawed humans and accurate period details.
The Pilgrim is such a delightful find. Hugh Nissenson's moody, intelligent novel is about a tormented English Puritan who strikes out for the Plymouth Plantation in 1622... It conjures up that dangerous black magic spell that the most powerful historical novels cast: The Pilgrim makes us feel that, even if this version of the past isn't quite accurate, this is the version we wholeheartedly believe - at least for the space of reading."
Nissenson spins a compelling historical tale steeped in the religious and cultural customs of the original Puritans... The authentically rendered first-person perspective that propels the narrative illuminates both Wentworth's prolonged dark night of the soul and his daily trials and experiences.
"The reader is transported back to the earliest days of the settling of America by the sworn statement of one Charles Wentworth, who came to Plymouth soon after the Mayflower landing. The powerful influence of religion and the church is portrayed through his struggles with both his humanity and his faith, as Charles mourns the tragic loss of his betrothed while at the same time reveling in the death of the 'savages' who must be conquered to create a safe new home. This is a great work of historical fiction"
"Hugh Nissenson's vision of a re-created society and ethos is remarkable, the language crafted out of plainness and purity a plainness and purity which, both in the individual phrase and cumulatively, rise to majesty. The Pilgrim is a masterwork of fierceness, insight, inhabitation, and relentless power." -Cynthia Ozick, author of Foreign Bodies
"A lustrous recreation. Hugh Nissenson has taken the ore of research and transmuted it into the gold of art. The Pilgrim is impossible to put down until the final words. And then they continue to carom endlessly in the mind." -Stefan Kanfer, author of Tough Without a Gun (recent Bogart bio), Ball of Fire (Lucille Ball bio), Groucho
"Hugh Nissenson's The Pilgrim is a startling, beautiful, numinous prose-poem about the founding of our country. It will surely be enshrined forever in the canon of American literature." -Johanna Kaplan, O My America!, Other People's Lives
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Meet the Author
Hugh Nissenson is the author of eight books, including the recent illustrated novel The Song of the Earth, which received a number of superb reviews in the New Yorker, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times among others. His previous novel The Tree of Life was a finalist for the National Book Award and the Pen-Faulkner Award in 1985. He lives in New York City.
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I read this over Thanksgiving, thinking it would be interesting to go back in time to the Pilgrim era. I had trouble forcing myself to finish the book. I did not like the selfish and egotistical main character and the author seemed to have an adolescent fascination with bodily functions. The author was especially obsessed with people losing control of their bowels when they die (and I know this is a common misconception, not every death involves a release of the bowels) - unnecessarily gross. The historical aspects were only mildly interesting; I like historical fiction in general, but this was not worth the time I put into reading it.