OK, now that this is done I am happy I read it. I knew practically nothing about Simón Bolivar (1783-1830). Who's he???? He is the Venezuelan who freeOK, now that this is done I am happy I read it. I knew practically nothing about Simón Bolivar (1783-1830). Who's he???? He is the Venezuelan who freed South America from Spanish rule! The battle for independence began in Venezuela in 1810, spread to Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru. Final independence wasn't achieved until 14 years later. (Chile and Argentina were freed from Spanish rule by others, and that is not covered in this book.)
The book follows the "liberator" from birth to death. He had such hopes, such high ideals - freedom and equality of all races. The tyranny of Spain was thrown off but bringing peace to a land with such a mix of religion and race lead in fact to chaos and civil war. How does it end for Bolivar himself? It ends in poverty, illness and exile. Both Bolivar's achievements and faults are presented. The research is thorough. His childhood, education and military campaigns are followed step by step by step. Civil wars, betrayals, friendships and mistresses. Wait till you meet his lover Manuela Sáenz! She is something else. It is all here. His death is covered too. I would say the reader is if anything given too much rather than too little.
The epilog is excessively long-winded.
I had trouble with the audiobook narration by David Crommett. He spoke the Spanish names of people and cities and rivers and areas so darn quickly that I could not even jot them down! There are lots of names! A person who is acquainted with Spanish will love it, but I had difficulty. So I learned what I could learn. If you cannot write down the name of a town how do you find it in an atlas or on internet? Also, he emphasized the text's lines, which is not the way I like audiobooks read. Suspense, fear and glory are magnified. I kept thinking, "Please, just calm down!"
I think if you know Spanish and if you are already acquainted with Bolivar and South American history, you will not find this as difficult a read as I did. It is a good book, but the more you know before starting it the more you will appreciate it. Heck, you have to start somewhere.
50% completed: Well, I am chugging through this thing. There have been moments I wanted to dump it. What makes it so very hard is that the names and places are pronounced very quickly with a Spanish accent. There are lots of names and places that I do not recognize. Given the correct but fast narration by one fluent in Spanish, I am having trouble. I am learning what I can. AND the narrator sort of sings the text, which drives me nuts, particularly when describing war atrocities. Phew, I really do not enjoy reading about such. Gruesome details, but this is what happened. ...more
I highly recommend The Mapmaker's Wife: A True Tale of Love, Murder, and Survival in the Amazon, but not to everyone. The title and the book descript I highly recommend The Mapmaker's Wife: A True Tale of Love, Murder, and Survival in the Amazon, but not to everyone. The title and the book description may give the impression that the central theme of the book is a love story. That is false. Part of the book is certainly a wonderful adventure story about a woman who travels practically alone through the Amazon basin to reach her husband stranded in French Guiana, but this portion of the boo takes up only the last seventy pages. The love story and the adventurous trip from Rioabamba (near Quito, Ecuador) down the eastern slopes of the Andes, through the tropical rain forests of the Amazon along the river to its mouth and then to Cayenne, French Guiana is not the central theme of the book. That is important to understand when you choose to read or not read this book. This portion is exciting, and it does put a wonderful end to the book.
What primarily is this book about? It is about a scientific and exploratory expedition carried out in the 1730s and 40s by the French. It is about the Spanish conquest of South America, conquistadors, Hernando Cortés and Francisco Pizarro. It is about the conquest of the Aztecs and the Incas. It is about the plants and animals and minerals and gems found around Quito and the upper stretches of the Amazon. In the pages of this book you will find a lot of history and information about both Spanish and native South American beliefs and practices. You are sure to be fascinated by the description of indigenous plants and animals.
It is important to note that the expedition took place during the Enlightenment. Although the expedition’s primary goal was to measure the distance of one degree of latitude, many other scientific areas were also to be studied, all in the spirit of the era. New scientific instruments were to be tested, to discover the shape of the earth, to discover more precise knowledge of the laws of gravity. Temperature's effect on metals was to be quantified. Botanical varieties were to be documented, in the hope of finding new products and medicines.
The expedition was also to spy. The French wanted to discover what the Spanish had hidden in its Viceroyalty of Peru, as Spain’s territory in South America was called. (Don’t think just Peru. The area extended over a huge chunk of South America up to the Caribbean coastline.) There were so many amazing stories: a city of gold (El Dorado), huge Amazon women warriors, men with feet that were put on backwards, and the women were beauties. What was true? What were imaginary tales? The French wanted to know.
This is a book about science, history, politics and the natural resources found in South America. It is informative. It is engaging, and the end does include an exciting adventure. There are numerous maps, depicting the rivers and tributaries in the Amazon basin. There are maps showing the travel routes followed. There are pictures in the book from museum and private collections illustrating tools, scenes, plants and animals. There is an index and a bibliography. There are direct quotes from sources. The subject matter is very well documented. I never found it boring.
I have two complaints. The first I have already pointed out – a deceptive title and book description. Secondly, the mathematical reasoning meant to explain the expedition’s scientific goals are confusing. Although the triangulation, base lines measured and tools employed are extensively described, I still feel I do not always understand why a given measurement would prove the truth or falsity of the scientific principle being questioned. Please note, these sections can be skimmed, but I tried to understand. I read them several times, and I only sort of understood, on a general level .
Despite my two complaints, I very much enjoyed reading this book. I have given it four stars. In my view it is very well written. ...more