105. A Voyage Long and Strange (Tony Horwitz)

Wednesday, August 04, 2010
I bought a book. I know I had said I wouldn't buy any books (or at least try not to) or movies but I caved. Seriously, how could I resist a book with a title like A Voyage Long and Strange (on the Trail of Vikings, Conquistadors, Lost Colonists, and Other Adventurers in Early America), not to mention this adorable cartoonish cover? Obviously I had no choice, right? Right?

Voyage is Tony Horwitz's quest to fill in the blanks when it comes to America's early history. Most people are familiar with the big events... Columbus sailing the ocean blue in 1492, the Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock. That sort of thing. And thats what most folks learn at school. How much time is spent educating North Americans about Coronado? De Soto? The French Huegonots who tried to settle in the Carolinas? Or Vikings "discovering" the new world 500 years before Columbus and his crew?

Beginning at L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, the site of a viking settlement c1000AD, Horwitz discovers the history the school books don't teach you. Working his way forward through time, he takes us along on wonderful road trip through America's early year, filling in the blanks between Columbus and the Pilgrims. He visits major monuments and hidden gems (and more than a few duds), interviews local historians (professional and amateur) while following the paths of the continents early European explorers providing us with an often hilarious take on what they went through in this new world.

Normally, I have a complaint or two about any book, even those I love. While I do have a couple with this one too, they are so minor it's almost not worth mentioning but ... you know I'm going to anyways. Reading the prologue, I almost didn't continue onward when I read the following statement: "To rediscover my native land, the U.S. Continent?" (page 7). Um, issue. The United States isn't a continent. It's North America. That means Canada, the USA, and Mexico. If I was rude, I'd say this is yet another example of our American cousins thinking they are the centre of the universe but I'm not so...I won't. Secondly, on page 14, during his adventures in Newfoundland, he refers to the CBC as the "Canadian Broadcasting Service". No, it's actually the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation but that's ok. I'm willing to let that one go. Especially since later in the same chapter, he made me giggle hysterically with this: "I nodded, bought a pair of socks, and retreated to my car, bewildered by my first contact with Newfoundlanders. Were they having fun with me? Or were they all barking mad?" (page 19).***

When you offer me vikings, conquistadors, and explorers of all kinds, along with tales of gold fever, adventure and a teeny bit of cannibalism, you know I'm going to love it. A Voyage Long and Strange was exciting, educational, and entertaining. I zipped through it in a matter of days. To be honest, if I didn't have a job to go to, I would have probably finished it in 2 days. I definately recommend it!

*** Just for the record, it was probably both.


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