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Details Coming Soon Landfalls


Blackstone Pub
Book Format
Original Languages
Williams, Naomi J.
Publication Date
August, 2015
Assembled Product Dimensions (L x W x H)
6.25 x 6.75 x 1.00 Inches

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Landfalls has everyt...

"Landfalls" has everything a good historical novel should have: basis in an actual event, remote places or cultures, and a narrative suitable for the time. Based on the actual French scientific and exploratory voyage in 1785, the voyage is lead by Monsieur Laperouse, a French officer who is in charge the Astrolabe along with his second in command, Monsieur de Langle, captain of the Boussole. Each chapter is told from a viewpoint of different individuals on the voyage or affected by it. deMonneron is an engineer on the voyage, assigned to gather the best navigational devices of the time. deLamanon has the longest official title: physicist, geologist, botanist, and meteorologist and his ego is a match for the title. Laperouse, the leader of the exploration, is more comfortable on the seas than at social events which he is expected to attend due to his position. The first major stop of the voyage is in Concepcion, Chile where high French culture meets new world high culture. Laperouse, strong and brave on the ocean, becomes almost weak in the knees when a beautiful young woman takes his arm. When the voyage reaches Alaska, the story is told from the viewpoint of a young native girl as she witnesses a tragic event which leaves 21 seamen dead. The unnamed speaker calls the sailors "Snow Men" thinking first that they are ghosts but soon realizing that they are real live men. Langle narrates the chapter of the same tragedy; two completely different viewpoints of the same event. Monsieur Lavaux, the voyage's surgeon narrates the chapter taking place on the North American coast where fog is heavy and Langle has been tasked with writing letters back to France explaining the deaths of the crew. Chapter seven is made up of letters sent from Monterey, where the ships dock in order to get supplies. Six letters tell the same story of the wife of the Mayor, the priests working with the Indians, and the effect the French visitors have on the Spanish ruling this area. Set in Macao, almost a year after departure, Monsieur Lamartiniere, another naturalist, disobey the ship's orders and spends time on land in order to write a monograph of the parasites found in Alaska which he later reads to a beautiful woman who is "available" for pleasure. Laperouse must deal with these two educated, yet childish scientists. Almost two years later, the ships reach a Russian outpost and de Lesseps, the Russian translator, leaves the crew in order to take official papers back to France. The story of Lesseps is set in Russia and tells of the difficult journey to St. Petersburg accompanied by a Russian guide, Golikoff. The final chapters tell of an encounter with natives on Maouna Island. The French have guns, but the natives manage to wound or kill them by throwing rocks. Langle is among those killed and Vaujuas is tasked with writing the report telling of the awful event. Glass beads were supposed to help establish friendly relations with the Indians. Botany Bay in New Holland is an island of resettled convicts. The ship's chaplain is mysteriously murdered and various characters tell what they know of that death. The Solomon Islands chapter relates the story of a white man who has been stranded on the island. Vo is the only man left on the island from the two ships that had come before. Now he is the husband of Alu and the father of a baby. The final chapter takes place in 1816 and is told by Laperouse's sister who wants to legally change the family's name due to the status Laperouse has gained since the loss of both ships. Finally, in 1929, relics are being displayed as items from Laperouse's lost voyage. Lesseps is the only one who actually returns to France from the voyage. Loved this book which brings the characters alive. It is the story of the known vs. the unknown, the new world vs. the old world, and many of the personal conflicts between characters and within their hearts.

I was really attracted...

I was really attracted to this book. From the beautiful cover to the promising description ("grounded in historical fact . . . refracted through a powerful imagination"), Landfalls appeared to me a definite win. Then it went nowhere for me. That is to say, it was incredibly dry, which is ironic considering that this is a novel at sea, but-a ha!-'tis not a novel at sea at all, but a collection of stories that occur when the sea voyager is docked, a fact that should be obvious by the blatant title but wasn't clear to me until the third chapter or so. That sentence feels like it needs several exclamation points, doesn't it? Okay, let's go back. ...wasn't clear to me until the third chapter or so!(!!)!! Doesn't have the same effect now, does it? Okay, moving on. So reading Landfalls had its ups and downs. Many of these stories didn't resonate with me. Some really did. But I think the book's greatest flaw is its very concept, that of focusing only on the landfalls of the Lapérouse expedition. Seafaring voyages are made by what happens at sea, not on land. On land, the characters are not stretched in the same way. The reader doesn't really get to know these characters and how they have interacted and grown together. The characters are put at sea together and more than six months pass before their first landing. What happens in all this time? How have these men grown? How have they rallied together? How have they struggled with one another? These are the stories I want. Instead, what we're offered are the men's time cavorting with Spanish dignitaries and locals. Indeed, these moments are important too, but I feel like I'm missing a big chunk of the story. Frankly, for the most part, I had trouble differentiating the characters because I never really got to know them on the voyage. I felt like I was locked away in the hold of the ship, then, upon reaching land, I was released and allowed to follow whatever crewmember I wanted until the ship again disembarked. Then, the process was repeated over and again. By the end, I felt unsure of where I was in the world and who I'd spent all that time with. As I stated earlier, there are definitely some strong moments in this novel. A few of the stories-particularly those where members of the crew interact with locals of a very different culture-are simply amazing. Throughout the book, the writing is flawless. Indeed, Williams is an exceptionally talented author. As a whole, however, Landfalls didn't keep me interested enough. I was promised magic, but what I was given did not shine.

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Electrode, Comp-812502084, DC-prod-az-southcentralus-17, ENV-prod-a, PROF-PROD, VER-30.0.3-ebf-2, SHA-8c8e8dc1c07e462c80c1b82096c2da2858100078, CID-f2d04e0d-a45-16e90e6985ab2a, Generated: Fri, 22 Nov 2019 02:17:41 GMT