The Lost Lady of the Amazon: The Story of Isabela Godin and Her Epic Journey

The Lost Lady of the Amazon: The Story of Isabela Godin and Her Epic Journey

by Anthony Smith
     
 
The incredible story of an eighteenth century noblewoman's journey down the mighty Amazon River -- her courage, her survival, her undying love. The French scientific expedition that set off for Peru in 1735 did not have much luck. Five of its members died or went insane before their seven years' work was completed, but Jean Godin, the youngest member of the team, fell

Overview

The incredible story of an eighteenth century noblewoman's journey down the mighty Amazon River -- her courage, her survival, her undying love. The French scientific expedition that set off for Peru in 1735 did not have much luck. Five of its members died or went insane before their seven years' work was completed, but Jean Godin, the youngest member of the team, fell in love and married a local girl -- Isabela, the daughter of the local Spanish governor. They settled down and started a family in Riobamba. After a few years, feeling homesick for France, Godin crossed the Andes and travelled the length of the Amazon to test whether it was a route suitable for his young family. Unfortunately, having safely reached Cayenne in French Guiana, he discovered that the political situation prevented his return: neither the Spanish nor the Portuguese would allow his passage back up river.

The story is incredible. After almost twenty years, during which Jean still waited on in Guiana, the King of Portugal relented and allowed a boat passage to retrieve the forlorn Peruvian family. Isabela at last set off with her children, her brothers, and her Indian servants, over the Andes and down the Amazon. But the journey was to prove worse than the long years of waiting. Smallpox, starvation, the torrential nature of the river and the horrors of the jungle beset the travellers. Some of the party drowned, some ran away, others died of hunger. In the end, Isabela alone survived of the forty-two who set off -- she was found wandering in the jungle sick and half-crazed, and was finally taken safely on the rest of the journey and reunited with her husband. In the chaotic days before the French Revolution, Isabela's tale of love, courage, and devotion to her long-lost husband caused a sensation and was the talk of every salon in Paris. Anthony Smith's vivid account of it will be read with as much wonder and admiration today.

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
An inconsequential episode in the history of Amazonian exploration gets dusted off for book-length treatment. In the 1730s, following a decades-long debate over the shape of planet Earth--the French academician Jacques Cassini arguing for a sausage-like form, the Englishman Isaac Newton holding for the oval--the French government dispatched two teams, one to the Arctic and one to the equator, to map the stars, triangulate their relative positions, and arrive at a definitive answer. The Spanish government, "however bewildered by the request," agreed to allow the French scientists to poke around in Ecuador, only to take exception to their habit of erecting little geodetic pyramids decorated with the fleur-de-lis, as if to claim the territory for France. One of them, Jean Godin, had meanwhile become a familiar in the Spanish governor’s household and later married his 13-year-old daughter. In 1742, writes English exploration buff and author Smith (Explorers of the Amazon, 1989, etc.), Godin decided to return to France by way of the Amazon to French Guiana; if the route were safe, his young wife, Isabela, would follow. Jean got downriver safely, but, owing to squabbling between their two countries, nearly 20 years passed before Isabela could follow. She ought to have stayed home, for the journey killed all her companions and left her half-mad. Still, she rose to the challenge of traversing the jungle alone, Smith writes, and "became transformed into an active being, far from a replica of her former self but quite dissimilar from the expiring object she had been when lying on the ground." Whatever that means, it’s typical of Smith’s narrative, which meanders about looking for dramatic momentsthat never come. Redmond O’Hanlon would have condensed the tale into a well-turned paragraph to illustrate the rigors of Amazonian travel; here, reading about it turns into an epic labor all its own. A footnote suited to fans of bad-trip travel literature--but only the patient ones.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780786710485
Publisher:
Da Capo Press
Publication date:
01/22/2003
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.94(d)

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