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Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War Paperback – April 24, 2007

4.3 out of 5 stars 674 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Departing from his customary nautical stories, including the phenomenally popular In the Heart of the Sea (2000), Philbrick makes landfall with the saga of the Pilgrims. By necessity, all modern writing about the founding colonists relies on William Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation, interpreting it through modern historical sensibilities that incorporate native perspectives on the newcomers from across the ocean. Long gone is the once inculcated version of friendly Indians helping starving English religious refugees through hard times. The scholarly thesis now has the Pilgrims arriving amid coastal Indian societies that had been decimated by a pandemic. The Pilgrims appeared in 1620 as a potential ally to the weakened Pokanokets and their sachem Massasoit against neighboring enemies: the Massachusetts and the Narragansetts. Philbrick essentially recounts this reigning interpretation with sensitivity to landscape description, narrative suspense, and understanding of motivations: piety, wrath, gratitude, duplicity--a panorama of human character and historical portent is on display in Philbrick's skillful rendering. Chronologically tracking the fortunes of the alliance struck by Massasoit with Bradford, Philbrick carries events through the second generation, in whose collective hands the alliance exploded into King Philip's War of 1675-76. A sterling synthesis of sources, Philbrick's epic seems poised to become a critical and commercial hit. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From AudioFile

Author Nathaniel Philbrick strips away the prettiness of what we learned in grade school about the Pilgrims and their religious beliefs. We hear accounts of their pulling out the bowels of live Indians, stealing their food, and taking their possessions. Life in the New England colonies offered more death and disease than freedom at first, and the truthful aspects of the settlers' struggles must be rated "R." George Guidall narrates the gruesome details as he tells a cozy story, varying his expression and emphasis to maintain the listener's interest in every sentence. Somehow he knows how to pronounce the hundreds of native names and places as if he used the words every day. J.A.H. © AudioFile 2006, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 463 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (April 24, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143111973
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143111979
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (674 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,115 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Gary Griffiths VINE VOICE on May 20, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Nathaniel Philbrick's remarkable "Mayflower" is everything you'd hope a history book to be: illuminating, lively, and authoritative. This was simply a terrific read, a fascinating glimpse into the events and people serving as the first bricks in our nation's foundation.

Beyond the fairytale images of "The First Thanksgiving", most basic American history skips from the Mayflower's 1620 landing in Plymouth the American Revolution, glossing over the rich and brawling century-and-a-half spanning these two events. Philbrick zeroes in on the first half-century, stripping away the myth and homily typically associated with the Pilgrims and laying bare a fascinating tale of courage and deceit, of trusts forged and broken, of politics, religion, brutality, and war. All the familiar figures are there - William Bradford, Miles Standish, Pokanoket Indian chief Massoit, Squanto, and Edward Winslow, but Philbrick focuses on less celebrated figures like Benjamin Church and Massoit's son Phillip, who while hardy household names today leave behind legacies that helped shape what would become a century later the United States of America.

This is a story ripe with opportunity for politically correct revisionism, but the author walks a balanced line, alternately praising and condemning the deeds and players of both the English and the Native Americans. We learn, for example, that near-starvation in the first two years had as much to do with the Pilgrim's failed experiment in socialism as it did with harsh winters and poor soil. This led Bradford to adopt a policy allowing each family to grow and hunt not for the "commonwealth", but for themselves. Thanks to Bradford's newly discovered spirit of capitalism, the colony is soon producing a surplus of food.
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Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed Sea of Glory by Nathaniel Philbrick, so picked up his latest, Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community and War. Mayflower is actually two books in one. The first part details the story of the Pilgrims and their establishing Plymouth Colony. The second part deals with an Indian war since named King Philip's War. Unfortunately, I enjoyed the first section much more than the second.

Philbrick's account of the Pilgrims is a fascinating tale, and I'm not sure how much is new to me and how much I've just forgotten. The author starts with the Pilgrims in England and chronicles their beliefs, their escape to Holland, their grueling voyage, the establishment of Plymouth Colony and their befriending of the Pokanoket Indians and especially, their leader Massasoit. The first year was especially perilous and over 50% of the settlers died within the first six months. Some of the original colonists were not religious men (Strangers as opposed to Saints). But they quickly realized that they all had to work together to survive. One of the most remarkable achievements by the Pilgrims was the drafting of the Mayflower Compact. Before they even landed in the New World, these men recognized the need to set up a civil government in which all must agree to obey laws set up by their elected officials. Today, the Mayflower Compact is a "document that ranks with the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution as a seminal American text." The Pilgrims are also to be admired for their ability to adapt and they were willing to try almost anything to survive. In this way, they "proved to be more receptive to the new ways of the New World than nearly any English settlers before or since.
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Format: Hardcover
At 480 pages, Nathaniel Philbrick's Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War is in many ways a complete history of the Plymouth Colony. What a read though, and the pages flew by.....Mayflower is well written. Philbrick does a masterful job at breathing life into characters who have, over time, almost become larger than life. As a child who was familiar with the Plymouth story, Chief Massasoit, William Bradford, and Miles Standish seemed hero like; characters who were super human. Philbrick does a great job of making them human, and believable.

Philbrick also manages to clearly tell the most often misunderstood part of the story, that of the Wampanoag tribes precarious situation when the settlers arrived. There was a first thanksgiving, and for over half a century the two cultures lived in peace. Then the world for both peoples exploded with a huge loss of life on both sides as the result. This sickening failure is held center stage in Mayflower. Philbricks wonderful descriptions of the early countryside is as realistic as anything else. I suspect that historians may find fault here and there throughout the novel, but for this reader, Mayflower is a terrific story about early America and the loss of so much promise.

I put down In the Heart of the Sea to quickly read Mayflower. As with other readers I am now a hooked fan of Mr. Philbrick and cannot wait for the next book. I predict Mayflower will be a run-a-way literary and commercial success.
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Format: Hardcover
Superbly crafted and even fast-paced much of the way, Philbrick has turned in a great nonfiction narrative, tying together pure history with delicate, artful commentary and engaging storytelling.

The first 150 or so pages bring you from Leiden to Plymouth and recount the first years of the Plymouth settlement. Philbrick's account of the story behind the pilgrimage - including a regretably brief examination of the Leiden expatriate community - are enlightening, crisp and for many I suspect, new.

He leans a little too heavily on indian fighter Benjamin Church and the events surrounding King Philip's War in the second half of the book, and the narrative lags. Not only because it seems that in the martial history Philbrick finds himself, certainly not over his head, but, out of his element; but also because the war years begin to feel like a story further separated from the Mayflower/Plymouth one than Philbrick supposes or intends to show.

Philbrick's research and recount are impeccable and are taken in large part from his work with the native oral history of the time. This approach informs a new understanding of the motivations and explanations for the events that transpired beginning in the early seventeenth century and continued into almost the early nineteenth.

The English conquest of the New World was not only a triumph of technology, but was indeed the ascendancy of an economic system, as global capitalism and its realities and rigors began to exert themselves in an onslaught that continues through this very day.
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