zaterdag 25 juni 2016

"A Land So Strange" by Andrés Reséndez

"Deprived of firearms and armor, the castaways were forced to cope with North America on its own terms."

History is fascinating, but writing about history in an exciting way requires a special skill. Andrés Reséndez clearly possesses that skill. "A Land So Strange" is a compelling account of an expedition gone terribly wrong.

1527. After a defeat against his countryman Hernán Cortés - who went on to conquer the Aztec empire - Pánfilo de Narváez starts on an expedition of his own. Fully convinced that he will find empires as rich as that of the Aztecs, he assembles a fleet of 5 ships and a team of some 600 men, among them Álvar Cabeza de Vaca. After losing several ships and personnel in storms and hurricanes, Narváez lands in Florida, where the team is further decimated by extreme weather conditions, shortage of food and water and clashes with hostile natives. Cabeza de Vaca is one of only four survivors of the expedition, along with two other noblemen and an African slave.

Reading nonfiction usually takes me a bit longer that fiction, but not this book. It's extremely well written and tells an absolutely fascinating story. History about the conquistadors usually focusses on their successes in suppressing the natives. This book shows that there's a whole other side to that tale as well. Recommended reading.

Title: A Land So Strange - The Epic Journey of Cabeza de Vaca.
Author: Andrés Reséndez
Publisher: Basic Books, New York
Year: 2009 (orig. 2007)
Number of pages: XIV + 314 p.
ISBN: 9780465068418

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