Fiona's Reviews > Caleb's Crossing

Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks
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Jul 16, 11

it was ok
Read in June, 2011

I ended Geraldine Brooks novel with regret which I was surprised to find. At first I wondered if I would become as engaged with it as I'd hoped, having enjoyed People of the Book, March so much. However after remonstrating with myself a little, I was rewarded.

In Caleb's Crossing Ms Brooks comes nearer to Margaret Atwood's greatest literary achievements than Margaret Atwood has managed in several of her own more recent novels and I think it's fair to draw the comparison for many reasons, not the least of which are the staggering scope of their creative talent and their critical acclaim. But enough of Ms Atwood!

In Caleb's Crossing, the writing in the style of the era is meticulously researched and memorable without being cumbersome. There is also such confidence in handling of the 1st person narrative, that of a woman who is intelligent but without rights of education or self determination. The depiction of the pedagogy of the day and the teaching of the Classics is outstanding. The genesis of Harvard too is interesting, and not just as the locus of where Caleb is educated in the classics and slotted into the harsh confines of a white, Puritan society in the New World.

Those seeking a novel with a predictable romance between the two main characters may be surprised at how Ms Brooks deals with that possibility and I applaud her willingness to explore romantic love differently and to not have the story-telling mechanics of that dominating a far more important message.

Most importantly to me, and simplistically speaking, it's a story written in the new millennium with the "noble savage" as its central literary metaphor, made brutally clear as we read of the fate of the colonised (Caleb and his community) versus the prosperity of the colonisers (Bethia and her community). (I think that Ms Brooks possibly indulges that myth a little too much but there you go). And the main setting, Martha's Vineyard, emerges with a beautifully described persona, which is also in keeping with the evolving literary themes of the day.

These are hardly new themes but it's what I took most from this novel. The lessons drawn from Caleb's "crossing" are painful and extremely sad. Societies seemed compelled, both then and now, to eradicate all evidence of the "other" culture in order to demonstrate that homogeneity is seemingly preferable to respect for differences and uniqueness. Insodoing, the literary myth of the "noble savage" perished along with its inspiration. I'd be a little surprised if other readers did not also feel regret when the story ended whether they drew these conclusions or not. I'll be interested to read other reviews.
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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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Lynn Diane I agree with you about Geraldine Brooks' amazing talent. I just bought the book and am starting it now.


Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship Why only 2 stars? It seems like you think well of this book.


Fiona V good question I might change it to 3


Lynn Diane I have to agree with Fiona's assessment. I adore Brooks' other books, but hated this one. I only gave it 3 stars and that's because I respect Brooks' body of work.


Nita I wonder about your 2 stars only!


Fiona Me too. Maybe I should've given it 3... :)


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