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

Overview

Isabela Godin des Odonais arrived in France from Guiana in 1773, and for months her tale of wifely devotion was the talk of every salon in Paris. For good reason, as the vivid retelling of this sensational tale in Anthony Smith's chronicle of an amazing Amazonian odyssey shows. A remarkable story, it takes Jean Godin on a French scientific expedition to Peru in 1735 and six years later marries him to the thirteen-year-old daughter of the Spanish governor. Godin's plan to take his wife, Isabela, and their young ...

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Overview

Isabela Godin des Odonais arrived in France from Guiana in 1773, and for months her tale of wifely devotion was the talk of every salon in Paris. For good reason, as the vivid retelling of this sensational tale in Anthony Smith's chronicle of an amazing Amazonian odyssey shows. A remarkable story, it takes Jean Godin on a French scientific expedition to Peru in 1735 and six years later marries him to the thirteen-year-old daughter of the Spanish governor. Godin's plan to take his wife, Isabela, and their young family to France originates in nostalgia, but his sense of responsibility as well as adventure prompts him to first test the possibility of crossing the Andes, traveling the length of the Amazon, and sailing to French Guiana. He succeeds, but only after 20 years of petitions to the Portuguese government for passage will Godin's wife undertake the same 3,000-mile journey—and encounter a series of jungle horrors and river tragedies that will reduce her party of 42 to her half-mad self, starving and alone. Photographs and a map add to this incredible true story of Isabela's journey down the mighty Amazon—exploring her courage, her survival, and her undying love.

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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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786710485
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 1/22/2003
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Table of Contents

Maps
A Story's Origins 1
1 The French Measurers 1735-43 7
2 Iberians Among the Amazons 1542, 1560-1, 1637-9 31
3 A Feast of Science 1743-4 47
4 The Constant Husband 1749-65 61
5 A Galiot for a Lady 1765-6 77
6 Joachim's Journey 1766-9 91
7 Dona Isabela Embarks 1769 103
8 Disaster 1769 115
9 The Sole Survivor 1769-70 133
10 Stranger Than Fiction 1770 151
11 A Joyful Reunion 1770-3 163
12 The Chain-Bearer Comes Home 1773-92 175
A Personal Epilogue 185
Index 191
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