Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War, by Nathaniel Philbrick
It was my turn to choose a book for book club, and I really wanted us to read some non-fiction. So I brought four choices, and this was the one that won.
Mayflower is aptly named, being the story of the Pilgrims and their journey to America in 1620. The book covers a time span of over fifty years, beginning with their persecution in England, because they chose to break away from the Church of England, believing that it had moved too far away from the tenets they held. They sought to find a place where they no longer had to worship in private, and first moved to the Netherlands. While they found religious freedom there, they found life was difficult because they didn’t have land, so they were forced into menial labor jobs.
102 Pilgrims departed for American in September of 1620, and set anchor off of Cape Cod on November 21, 1620. Due to their late start, they stayed on the ship for the winter, and didn’t begin to build their settlement until the spring. Due to an outbreak of disease, and not having enough food, at the end of the winter, only 53 people remained… They were assisted by the Native Americans almost from the beginning, along with some stores of corn that they found buried nearby and stole (they did eventually replace the stolen corn).
The book details the establishment of alliances between the Pilgrims and the Native Americans, which held for about 50 years. Unfortunately, eventually these relationships broke down, due to a lot of suffering, mistrust, and treachery. The result was King Philip’s War, a war that I had heard about but didn’t know much about. The book goes heavily in detail about the war, the alliances, and the cruelty effected upon both the Native Americans and the settlers.
All in all, it was a very interesting book, but it was a more challenging read than Philbrick’s other books. Perhaps it is because of the large number of characters described, with multiple Pilgrim leaders, as well as a great number of different tribes and sachems. I was also expecting it to be more about the way that the Pilgrims lived and worshipped, and it ended up being much more about the war.
A good overview, but you will probably need to read other books if you want a more detailed look into the Pilgrims’ lives.
And, by the way, the book club meets on January 14, so we will see how many of them read it!