Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded – REVIEW

3 out of 5 stars.

Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883 book cover - red background with drawing of Krakatoa before it erupted

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Erupting volcano line drawing

Synopsis

Simon Winchester, New York Times bestselling author of The Professor and the Madman, examines the legendary annihilation in 1883 of the volcano-island of Krakatoa, which was followed by an immense tsunami that killed nearly forty thousand people. The effects of the immense waves were felt as far away as France. Barometers in Bogotá and Washington, D.C., went haywire. Bodies were washed up in Zanzibar. The sound of the island’s destruction was heard in Australia and India and on islands thousands of miles away. Most significant of all — in view of today’s new political climate — the eruption helped to trigger in Java a wave of murderous anti-Western militancy among fundamentalist Muslims, one of the first outbreaks of Islamic-inspired killings anywhere. Krakatoa gives us an entirely new perspective on this fascinating and iconic event.

Lava spurting up from the ground

Review

Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded by Simon Winchester is about the incredible eruption of the volcanic island, Krakatoa, in 1883 and the damage and destruction that followed.

I enjoyed the science and the personal reflections from victims and survivors in this book, but the amount of detail that Mr. Winchester included became frustrating in spots. For example, much like Eruption: The Untold Story of Mount St. Helens, there were tangents that really weren’t necessary to the book. In this case, Mr. Winchester feels the need to provide us with the whole history of Lloyd’s Insurance out of London. It’s not necessary to the story line and it becomes very boring and tedious.

That being said, the research he conducted and the way he crafted the book with a mixture of science and personal tales work very well together. I still enjoyed the book, but if you read it, beware of the seemingly never-ending history section on Lloyd’s of London.

The Mapmaker’s Wife – REVIEW

4 out of 5 stars.

The Mapmaker's Wife book cover - portrait of Isabel Grameson on a compass background - small desert scene with sand and vicunas at the bottom

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Synopsis

The year is 1735. A decade-long expedition to South America is launched by a team of French scientists racing to measure the circumference of the earth and to reveal the mysteries of a little-known continent to a world hungry for discovery and knowledge. From this extraordinary journey arose an unlikely love between one scientist and a beautiful Peruvian noblewoman. Victims of a tangled web of international politics, Jean Godin and Isabel Grames’ destiny would ultimately unfold in the Amazon’s unforgiving jungles, and it would be Isabel’s quest to reunite with Jean after a calamitous twenty-year separation that would capture the imagination of all of eighteenth-century Europe. A remarkable testament to human endurance, female resourcefulness, and enduring love, Isabel Grames’ survival remains unprecedented in the annals of Amazon exploration.

Review

The Mapmaker’s Wife: A True Tale of Love, Murder, and Survival in the Amazon by Robert Whitaker is definitely an interesting tale. However, the title and the description on the book jacket are a bit misleading. The book jacket says that the book is about Isabelle Godin, who follows her husband down the Amazon after 20 years of separation. The thing is, that portion of the story doesn’t even start to happen until after page 200.

The first part of the book tells the tale of the original trip that brought her husband, Jean Godin, to Ecuador. It’s well-written and held my attention. I found the information provided to be interesting and fascinating, it just doesn’t include a lot about Isabelle Godin until later in the book.

It’s still a very interesting tale about exploration, murder, intrigue and a side note of love and female ingenuity. If you’re interested in South American history and the history of the men who were attempting to plot out exactly how large our planet is and what constitutes a degree of latitude or longitude, this is definitely worth reading. If you were looking for more of a biography about Isabelle Godin and are not interested in the history and scientific discoveries, this book is not for you.