Good book, great piece of journalism, but for the general reader WAY too much of a good thing. About 1/3 of the way through, I was ready for the story...moreGood book, great piece of journalism, but for the general reader WAY too much of a good thing. About 1/3 of the way through, I was ready for the story to start wrapping up. It transitions from family drama to corporate drama and includes way too much detail to stay vibrant over the length of this book. As a result, in its full length it is probably only of serious interest to people with HUGE amounts of buy-in to the Mondavi story. Fascinating story but... just too, too much of a good thing.(less)
This book is remarkably well written, stylistically, but still comes across as being a bit dry merely due to the density of the subject matter and the...moreThis book is remarkably well written, stylistically, but still comes across as being a bit dry merely due to the density of the subject matter and the fairly academic orientation of the author. Nonetheless, for fans of California history it's bloody fascinating.
The book is a fairly straightforward history of the opium trader 'Frolic,' which wrecked on the Mendocino coast in 1850, resulting in the ongoing mystery in local folklore of Native American women wearing Chinese silks in the mid-1800s. The book is written by an archaeologist who studied the wreck.
Along the way he discusses the history of the opium trade and the slave trade and the history of the Baltimore shipyards, which for a time outfitted the fastest ships in the world.
There's also some interesting stuff about the Pomo, the native Americans who lived in the region and salvaged part of the wreck (hence the Chinese silks). The prehistory of the Pomo is how the author, a San Jose State professor, got into studying the region.
At the end of the book, there's a bit of a weird section in which the author describes a local Mendocino performance of a play based on the wreck of the 'Frolic', in which an actress playing the Pomo elder at the time of the wreck (the actress is actually a full-blooded Maidu poet) says nasty things about the trade of archaeology, from the perspective of Native Americans.
This kinda hurts the author's feelings, and he processes that for a while... only in California, folks.
Overall, a great piece of local history and a glimpse of the scene on a vastly broader canvas. Well-written and enjoyable, and invaluable to Northern California history nuts.(less)
Nice collection of stories, but not at all what I was looking for. I was hoping for a collection of real stories of paranormal experiences in San Fran...moreNice collection of stories, but not at all what I was looking for. I was hoping for a collection of real stories of paranormal experiences in San Francisco. Most of these stories are fiction that happens to be set in San Francisco, mostly in the 19th and early 20th centuries. No real problem there -- a brilliant Jack London, wonderful Ambrose Bierce, great stuff. Some great urban legend style material in the later part of the book. And the excerpts from period newspapers early on (they used to report hauntings in the papers) are great. There's just not as many of those purportedly factual accounts as I would have liked.
The verdict: Great stuff, indispensible, but not what I was expecting.(less)