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Henry Hudson: Dreams and Obsession: The Tragic Legacy of the New World's Least Understood Explorer Hardcover – March 27, 2007
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The surviving records of Henry Hudson's four voyages of 1607-10 are apparently scant but provided enough information to be used in a previous history of his explorations (Donald Johnson's Charting the Sea of Darkness, 1992). Sandler, author of dozens of travel guides, converts the Hudson documentation into a travelogue to several of Hudson's haunts. He traveled somewhat more comfortably than Hudson did, embarking on a cruise ship to Spitzbergen, driving up the Hudson River Valley, and flying to Hudson Bay. Healthily quoting the mariner's logbooks to contrast travel then and now, Sandler also avails himself of the four centuries of history these places have experienced since Hudson sailed by, integrating nuggets of fact with what people have to say about Hudson. Some are quite loquacious on the subject, such as the captain of a replica of Hudson's ship Half Moon. Idiosyncratic, definitely interesting, Sandler will snare the travel/exploration set. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
Ok now that's out of the way let me explain a bit why this book is excellent.
First of all its one-third history, one-third travelogue and one-third PSA for keeping all the places Henry Hudson visited clean. The history part is fairly typical in that we don't know much about Hudson; he may have been a bad captain nothing that new or exciting. But overall it's still interesting and a good introduction for those unfamiliar with Hudson.
Then comes the travelogue sections. These are really interesting mostly because of all the unique people the author met on his travels. In reading the book the former director of Clearwater, Andy Mele, comes off as a pretty genuine guy. He's not a crazy tree hugging hippe but just a regular guy that wants to do some good. Most of the environmentalist people come off this way. Some people may not like this but honestly try spending a night near the Hudson...smell that? Yeah, that's the river. I did enjoy Sandle's search for Hudson's monuments and as he mentions in the introduction the most obvious ones are the Hudson River and New York City.
The best parts are the sections that are basically the PSAs about environmentalism. There are numerous digs at GE for dumping PCBs and our society in general. Having lived for four years about 100 yards from the Hudson I must say it's easily one of the greatest sights in the world. But its also one of the biggest dumps too. I think it's terrible that the river is so polluted that you can't go for a swim or eat a fish from there. I had a picnic with my girlfriend one day in Hyde Park right on the river and it was pretty easy to spot all the trash washed up on the shore. Ok enough gushing as Sandler does a much better job explaining this then I do.
In conclusion just read the book. It's excellent.
There's not a whole lot that's known about Hudson. What there is comes from a few brief surviving documents. You get the text from those documents word-for-word with little if any interpretation from the author. That's the real disappointment of this book. If I wanted to read the text of the original documents I'd look them up myself online. What I wanted was expert interpretation and the telling of the story that these documents seem to describe.
Sandler writes from Nantucket, an island he shares with the great historian Nathaniel Philbrick. But where Philbrick excels at taking scant information and turning it into a fascinating story, Sandler dumps the source information on the page and then rambles on about his own experiences in visiting the same places 400 years later. Unfortunately, it's just not very interesting. Thought you'd learn about Hudson's trip up the river that bears his name? You're going to get a little of that and then a whole lot of information on General Electric, PCBs, the environmental movement, and Pete Seeger.
An earlier reviewer characterized this book as being 1/3 history. I'd put it more at 1/10th. By the end of the book you'll know little about Hudson, but all about Sandler's political views, summer camp experiences, family, feelings, travel preferences, and a whole lot of other personal detail. If that's what you're looking to read about, you'll love it. But if you read the title and thought you were instead going to read a biography of Henry Hudson, you'll be disappointed.