Friday, October 30, 2009

Half Moon - Book Review

Half Moon: Henry Hudson and the Voyage that Redrew the Map of the New World
by Douglas Hunter

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Henry Hudson was was hired by the Dutch Trading Company in 1609 to find a northeastern passage around Russia to more easily access China. Hudson started his voyage aboard the Half Moon with a mixture of English and Dutch crewmen. Part way into his voyage, he decided to turn his ship around and go west to America where he would discover the Hudson River and other uncharted territories. Hudson found himself with his hands full, wondering if there was mutiny brewing and also wondering how he would be received by the Dutch when he finally decided to back. When he did go back, he found himself on another mission to find a northwestern passage to China. That was his last voyage.

When I closed the book after reading the last paragraph, I had to just sit in thought for a bit. Douglas Hunter, who is a sailor himself, wove such an intricate story of Henry Hudson. The amount of research that went into this book is amazing, and to present it like Hunter did was even more amazing to me. From the start I was drawn in, and felt like I was reading a puzzle with pieces being put together from all different sources, a little at a time, until the picture became clear. Who was Hudson? Where did he come from? Why would he blatantly disregard his orders and sail the opposite way?

Since there was no journal of Hudson's to go by, many of the notes about the voyage were taken from Robert Juet's journal. Reading some of the thoughts and feelings of an actual crew member was a real treat and very insightful. I had no idea what exploration was like in the 1500 and 1600's besides the basic textbook "stuff" I received in school. I had no idea of the amount of espionage, threats of mutiny, and pirating that went on. Most of all, I had no idea how much history was re-written for gain, both financially and politically. Hudson ended being a totally different man than the explorer that was captain of the Half Moon.

This book was a fascinating read, and now that I'm done, my family will be able to go back to normal dinner banter, instead of listening to me rattle on about what I found was amazing in the book. Both of my teens are now wanting to read Half Moon and I know they'll enjoy it as much as I did!

Please note - I received this book to review from Bloomsbury press as part of the First-reads program on Goodreads.

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