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Posted July 17, 2004
This reflective and at times dramatic sea faring tale is about Columbus's third (of four) and possibly most fateful voyages in 1498 to the New World and the participant's adventures that include 'discovering' Trinidad (even though it is inhabited, thus it has already been discovered) and seeing the South American coast for the first time. They are involved in the most alarming event when they become caught up in a disturbingly violent battle in an attempt to squelch a native rebellion. The story is told through the eyes of a lawyer (Rich) placed on board the ship by Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand and Rich's assignment is to basically 'spy' on the events of the trip and to report back to them as to what successes and failures occur. Even though the antagonist is a lawyer, he is an unusually sympathetic and compassionate character, particularly given the time period of the voyage, i.e., the Spanish inquisition is at full force and Rich often find himself slipping into what he is alarmed to realize is heretical thinking when he observes that the natives who are naked heathens and who know nothing of Christ and the church, seem to be perfectly happy and well adjusted to their lives on the isles. Many of the natives also know nothing of violence or warfare (on the island of 'Hayti' now known as Haiti and the Dominican Republic) and thus are strikingly unprepared for the anger that arises in them when their comrades are burned at the stake for nothing more than not adhering to the Christian teachings. Rich finds himself questioning the rationale of destroying and misusing such a gentle people and whether some of the long established TRUTHS that the church and history has indoctrinated his society with are really accurate or not. Throughout the book the details of navigation and sailing are interlaced seamlessly into the story so that the completely uninitiated as well as the novice and seasoned sailor will enjoy the detail without being overwhelmed by it. Forrester makes sailing jargon and its function as accessible as driving a car is to most people these days. Written in 1940, this story is somewhat remarkable for its forward thinking in that it touches upon equal rights and noninterference of other people's belief systems. Around this time C.S. Forrester spent some time in Hollywood working on movies that were propaganda in nature to help persuade Americans to help the British with the Germans, so these issues must have been on his mind. The history icon Christopher Columbus, is given real flesh and blood as robes of mortality as opposed to the stream lined and anorexic robes of immortality that are evident in so many text books. This gives a new edge to the old boring Admiral Columbus sailing the ocean blue of most historical texts and fleshes out his motivations, belief system, and possibly declining sanity as he is faced with the dissolution of his reputation and power as the story progresses.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.