In the High Peaks

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Books That Consume: Philbrick's The Mayflower and Sue Grafton: The Secret Rooms Tomorrow

I do apologize: My original header noted that I was going to comment on "The Secret Rooms and Downton." I can't do that today, though I'd like to tomorrow. I have The Secret Rooms from the library, and after reading 40 pages or so, I realized I had to order my own copy, which I did. I hope it arrives soon!

As I said to a close reading friend on Friday, after we had a pleasant sharing of a few mutual miseries, "Thank heavens for books!" She agreed wholeheartedly, and off we went, discussing every book that had crossed our paths in the past two weeks. Anne again encouraged me to pick up the first novel in Bernard Cornwell's saga of England in the "Way Back" era. Well, how far back? The Last Kingdom, the first novel in a seven-book series, deals with the Saxons ousting the "Danes" (or the Vikings) from England. I haven't started reading it yet, though I downloaded it for three dollars and want to get to it soon. I've redeveloped a long-lost love for historical fiction, and because I know Anne's reading tastes so well, I figured this one was well worth a go. Have you read a novel by Cornwell?

But!!! As of this week, I am in the midst of other TBR-pile reading fodder. I bought Nathaniel Philbrick's The Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War, because of the excellent reviews that appeared when the book was first published in 2006. I was especially intrigued that Philbrick included in his history of the "Pilgrims," the rebel Puritans who landed in the New World in 1620, the story of King Phillip's War, the horrendous war between the second-generation of colonists and Native Americans later in the 17th century (1670s), which profoundly altered 17th-century New England colonial society.

Millions of Americans can trace their ancestry to one or more Mayflower passengers, so it's not at all unusual that I, who hail from Massachusetts, am descended from one non-Pilgrim Mayflower pioneer, Edward Doty, who was an indentured servant to the non-Pilgrim Stephen Hopkins and his family. Doty was not a happy servant, and before his seven years' of indenture was up, he broke loose from Hopkins. As Philbrick makes clear, Hopkins was a loose cannon in every way. He had already ventured to the New World before his Mayflower passage. In 1609, when the ship he was on ran aground and broke up off Bermuda, he mutinied along with several other passengers. He had a reputation as a troublemaker, but then so did Edward Doty, my ancestor. But doesn't that make sense? Doesn't it seem plausible that the people most likely to risk their lives in a New World venture would have brio, chutzpah, and be overly brazen? In England the Pilgrims were considered religious radicals. Philbrick has done a masterful job of research and writing. I have especially appreciated the details he's brought to the narrative. A top-rate historical narrative!!

And I'm appreciating Sue Grafton's B is for Burglar. Her detective Kinsey Millhone is quirkier than ever in this, the second novel in her alphabetic crime-detective series. Kinsey is even more searing (and uproariously funny) in her scathing metaphoric characterizations of everyone she meets. I do burst out laughing, but I think eventually Kinsey must adjust her misanthropic view of all humanity. Very, very fun to read, though!


  1. There were Doty's in the mid Michigan town I grew up in. They were a family of florists so they've settled down since the beginning of the USA. Interesting post.

    1. It seems that lots of the Dotys in America go back to Edward, though not all. There is even an Edward Doty Society, I believe, as there are for just about every Mayflower passenger who lived to have surviving "issue" in America. The book is absolutely riveting.