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Listening to the Silence

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The Owl Killers
Karen Maitland
The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics
Daniel James Brown
Cloud Atlas
David Mitchell
West of the Revolution: An Uncommon History of 1776 - Claudio Saunt

1776, it is a year known well in the Western World. The year when the American colonies declared their independence, so beginning a war with Britain that would have resounding consequences. Yet it was a war that happened exclusively along the Atlantic seaboard. Thousands of miles of land lay to west of these battles, land that was experiencing its own upheavals, but rarely is that story told. This book endeavors to do just that, spanning not only the North American continent but also unexpected locations such as Cuba, Russia, and Paris.

 

I must admit I picked up this book from the shelves on a whim, because I was intrigued Even as a history student we rarely touched on what was happening in North America outside of the British colonies, that is until the fledgling United States began their push into the interior of the continent on their way to Pacific. While I appreciated Saunt's effort, I really felt like he could have done more. The text was dry, often rambling at times as in the pages and pages of information on the magnificence and signifigance of the beaver population. Where he wasn't engaged in long tangents, the author skimmed quickly over the material. At only 210 pages of text, this book provides the barest of introductions to the several topics covered. Given the 50 pages of notes at the end of the book, it is clear that the author conducted extensive research, so it would have been nice to read a more expanded version of this book. As it is, he merely wet my interest in the topics he chose to present. To top it off he introduced yet another topic on the European discovery of the Hawaiin Islands in the two page long epilogue. No where else in the book was Hawaii or Captain Cook mentioned, so I found this incredibly frustrating. Good thing he included all his notes so that I know where else to look for the rest of the history.