Compass

Reviews

  • Finalist for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in History
  • New York Times, Best 10 Books of 2006
  • Newsweek, Best Books of 2006
  • Publisher’s Weekly, Best Books of 2006
  • Boston Globe, Best 12 Books of 2006
  • Washington Post, Best Books of 2006
  • Chicago Tribune, Best Books of 2006
  • San Francisco Chronicle, Best Books of 2006
  • San Francisco Gate, Best Books of 2006

  • Salt Lake City Tribune, Best Books of 2006
  • Denver Post, Best Books of 2006
  • Booklist, Editors Choice 2006
  • Amazon.com, Top 50 Books of 2006
  • Christian Science Monitor, Best Books of 2006
  • Booksense, Best Books of 2006
  • American Library Association, Notable Book of 2006
  • Twenty weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list.
  • A main selection of the Book of the Month Club
  • A Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize

“[Philbrick] has written a judicious, fascinating work of revisionist history. Mayflower is a surprise-filled account of what are supposed to be some of the best-known events in this country’s past but are instead an occasion for collective amnesia. As Mr. Philbrick points out, the national memory tends to skip from the first Thanksgiving to the Shot Heard ‘Round the World without a clue about the 150 years in between.” —  Janet Maslin, New York Times

“We like our history sanitized and theme-parked and self-congratulatory, not bloody and angry and unflattering. But if Mayflower achieves the wide readership it deserves, perhaps a few Americans will be moved to reconsider all that.” —  Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post

“[V]ivid and remarkably fresh. . . [T]his is a story that needs to be continually refreshed, and Philbrick has recast the Pilgrims for our age of searching and turmoil. He gives what a 21st-century reader needs to find in the material: perspectives of both the English Americans and the Native Americans. Doing so requires a lot of reading between the lines (or in the case of the Indians reading between nearly nonexistent lines), but informed speculation—coaxing meaning out of inert data—is part of the job of writing history.” — Russell Shorto, New York Times Sunday Book Review

“Engaging and enthralling . . . Nathaniel Philbrick’s mastery of narrative becomes clear. The adventures and misadventures of these pilgrims, in their first fatal steps on the unknown land, are recorded in exemplary detail; this is living history at its best, animated and defined by human actions and reactions. This narrative, of a small group finding its identity within a wild landscape, has all the wonder of a fable or a legend; but it also has the conviction and verisimilitude of a faithful account.” — Peter Ackroyd, London Times

“Gripping . . . compelling . . . Philbrick has a gift for drawing telling details from the primary accounts on which much of his book is based. . . [He] seamlessly weaves into his tale much of the new understanding of native people, the environment, the impact of disease, and other topics gleaned from the previous generation of historical scholarship. . . a fascinating story, and one Philbrick tells very well.” — Jenny Hale Pulsipher, Boston Globe

“Philbrick triumphs in Mayflower because he combines [hindsight] with empathy to challenge twin myths about America’s beginnings. The original Pilgrims were neither religious patriots nor bloody conquerors. And the native Americans they befriended, then betrayed were more sophisticated and less peaceful than commonly believed.” — Jim Rossi, Los Angeles Times

“History is at its most potent when the lessons of yesterday flow naturally into today. Here, brilliantly constructed, is a river of resonance. We have warlords and constantly shifting alliances, treachery, bribery, bungling. We have religious extremism, racial hatred, military carnage and cover-ups. This could be Afghanistan or Iraq, as bloodily relevant as the latest roadside bomb. Instead, across four centuries, Nathaniel Philbrick offers us the New England of the Mayflower pilgrims, the benign myths that helped shape modern America and what really happened . . . enthralling.” — Peter Preston, The London Observer

“Riveting . . . a signal achievement. . . Philbrick enlightens and even astounds . . . a new, vital story that most of us never learned, but have always, somehow, thought we knew.” — Ben Cosgrove, Salon Magazine

“Forget Disney World. I’m going to Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts this summer. I’m hauling my kids off to see that New England re-creation of the 1627 Pilgrim settlement. Not to mention the famous rock and a replica of the Mayflower. The reason: Nathaniel Philbrick’s new book, Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War. . . It’s not that Philbrick has uncovered a cache of 17th-century documents. Rather, it is Philbrick’s subtle and detailed portrayal of not just the Pilgrims but also of the various tribes and sachems (leaders) that makes Mayflower so compelling.” — Deirdre Donahue, USA Today

“[This] is history as it should be written, with clean prose, eminent fairness, the narrative power of a good novel and a point to make. Philbrick’s account of economic and racial issues and the tragedy that ensued rings as true now as it did when the Pilgrims were peopling and depeopling New England.” — Jay Strafford, Richmond Times-Dispatch

“Philbrick is blessed with writing and storytelling talent that illuminates the conflicts and fleshes out the stick-figure characters we were all fed in Propaganda 101. . . For unsanitized American history, turn to this compelling book.” — Jesse Leavenworth, Hartford Courant

“Exceptional . . . By tying the arrival of the Pilgrims to King Philip’s War of 1675-1676 in the same book, Philbrick delivers a lesson that seems to be constantly forgotten, especially today.” — David Hendricks, San Antonio Express-News

“Philbrick avoids the overarching moral issues and takes no sides. He is telling a story about early America and explicitly relates it to themes of later American history. It’s about how dreams of harmony and prosperity, a godly Eden in the wilderness, changed to land-lust, racism, cynical expediency, and war. And about how a disadvantaged but relatively stable society was driven to desperation and finally decimated.” — David Mehegan, Boston Globe

“Mayflower is a jaw-dropping epic of heroes and villains, bravery and bigotry, folly and forgiveness. Philbrick delivers a masterly told story that will appeal to lay readers and history buffs alike. Clearly one of the year’s best books; highly recommended.” — Library Journal

“For Philbrick, this is yet another award-worthy story of survival.” — Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“Philbrick’s epic seems poised to become a critical and commercial hit.” — Booklist, Starred Review

“A remarkably sensitive account: 21st-century readers could ask for no more insightful reinterpretation of America’s founding myth.” — Kirkus, Starred Review

“Mayflower is a splendid account of a nearly forgotten era in America’s Colonial past. Thoroughly researched, carefully documented and engagingly written, this rewarding history describes a tragic collision of cultures with sensitivity, intelligence and considerable grace.” — John Alden, Baltimore Sun

“Many years ago, historian Samuel Eliot Morison said, ‘There is more bunk written about the Pilgrims than any other people. . . .’
“Although historians have done an admirable job telling the story of the Founding Fathers, they have pretty much left the Pilgrims to the myth-makers. Into this huge void has jumped Nathaniel Philbrick, to willingly correct the problem.
“The result is a factual history of the Pilgrims, the Mayflower and King Phillip’s War that should be considered definitive for many years to come. It is also a fine historical narrative that the average reader should find both interesting and entertaining.” — Dennis Lythgoe, Deseret Morning News

“Philbrick has performed an important and timely service in reminding Americans that our forefathers were once undocumented, desperate and at times even unscrupulous.” — Mark Johnson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“For history enthusiasts, Nathaniel Philbrick’s Mayflower is the season’s must-read.” — Fritz Lanham, Houston Chronicle

“Engaging and fast-paced. . . a compelling tale of disruption and destruction.” — Henry L. Carrigan Jr., Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“[V]ivid, trenchant storytelling . . . an important and compelling work.” — Regis Behe, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

“[I]t’s a best seller for a reason ˜ it’s wonderful reading that explodes and explores some myths about the Pilgrims and the Indians, and will fill in gaps in your understanding of how this country was founded.” — Jane See White, Arizona Daily Star

“Mayflower is solid history for our time, neither Manifest Destiny nor political correctness, not heroes versus villains, not definitive abstract answers on what the past means. Rather, this is balanced, objective food for thought about who we really are as a people.” — Mike Lillich, Indianapolis Star

“Since the release of Mayflower, Philbrick has been criticized for sympathizing too much with the Indians and going out of his way to point out the faults, even the crimes, of the Pilgrims. In truth, Philbrick is not playing favorites. It is simply that the Indians, particularly Massasoit, chief of the Pokanokets, are the most complex, interesting characters in this book. Massasoit and Squanto are both conflicted characters, and although they play dangerous political games with their new neighbors, it’s hard not to get a sense that they, Massasoit especially, had a sense of the history in the making. . . . In a time when politicians are demonizing ‘illegal immigrants,’ Philbrick shows that many of us descended from the original illegal immigrants. Just as importantly, he shows that history, like politics, is never as simple as good guys vs. bad guys. It never wraps up as neatly as a child’s book.” — Brian Hicks, Charleston Post and Courier

“For your Fourth of July reading, open a mind-opening book about an immensely important American war concerning which you may know next to nothing. King Philip’s War, the central event in a best-seller that is one of this summer’s publishing surprises, left a lasting imprint on America. Americans in this era of sterile politics have an insatiable appetite for biographies of the Founders. But why are so many readers turning to a book —  “Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War” by Nathaniel Philbrick —  that casts a cool but sympathetic eye on an era usually wrapped in gauzy sentimentality? One reason might be that it is fun to read about one’s family: Philbrick estimates that there are approximately 35 million descendants of the passengers on the Mayflower. (Do the math: 102 passengers; 3.5 generations in a century. But remember, 52 passengers died of disease and starvation before the first spring.) Perhaps a second answer is that the story is particularly pertinent as America is engaged abroad in a clash of civilizations and is engaged at home in a debate about immigration and the common culture.” — George Will, Washington Post

“In this excellent account, Nathaniel Philbrick details the horrors and the heroics that shaped New England over the half-century after the Mayflower’s 1620 landing. His Pilgrims, their descendants and those who followed them to the New World are by turns practical-minded survivors and intolerant zealots, compassionate sometimes in their treatment of American Indians and greedy often in their lust for native land. Their brilliance shone in the Mayflower Compact and their stupidity led to war and destruction. Likewise, Philbrick’s Indians are more than cardboard cutouts. He provides richly drawn portraits of Massasoit, the powerful native leader who first made treaty with the Pilgrims; the duplicitous Squanto, his rival; and King Philip, Massasoit’s son and instigator of a 14-month war that killed an astonishing number of Indians and colonists alike (but mostly Indians). Nor are the native tribes monolithic in either their respect or hatred for the English. Reconstructing the political motivations behind their terroristic attacks, actions that branded them savages at the time, one can’t help but consider the modern parallels. Ditto, the examples of religious extremism.” — Ronnie Crocker, Houston Chronicle

“Philbrick’s book is a myth-busting account of the Pilgrims and the generation that succeeded them, with equal focus on the natives they encountered. . . . What Philbrick manages to draw from diverse scholarship, and the perspective with which he frames settlement and the ensuing war together, . . . creates a surprising picture and argument about the antecedents of American life.” — Art Winslow, Chicago Tribune

Mr. Philbrick has written a fair-minded, thoughtful analysis of how the Plymouth colonists strongly influenced the future of America. All Americans —  including the millions of descendants of the Mayflower passengers (those who survived, Mr. Philbrick points out, had an average of seven or eight children per family) —  can read the story with appreciation for our forefathers’ courage and perseverance, as well as for their willingness to learn from their mistakes.” — Priscilla Taylor, Washington Times

“Marvelous . . . popular history at its best. . . . As Philbrick wisely observes, ‘unbridled arrogance and fear only feed the flames of violence.’ But he refuses to take a lopsided position with regard to the Pilgrims, and sensibly asks readers to take a sympathetic backward look at these intrepid settlers, who, under the inspired leadership of Bradford and others, ‘maintained more than half a century of peace with their Native neighbours’ before all hell broke loose.” — Jay Parini, Guardian Unlimited

“[I]f Bradford is this book’s conscience —  its reason and cognitive sense —  in regard to doctrine and accountability, then Church provides the smell of gunpowder, the tall tales, that give ‘Mayflower’ much of its gusto. Philbrick’s own hallmark is a subtler strand of narrative, a way of arranging anecdotal accounts as a series of voicings, pure characterizations based on small, personal details that eventually give us a wide, rich sense of an individual. . . . Philbrick excels in piquant details and characterizing touches, and his ‘Captain Shrimp’ [Miles Standish] practically lifts himself from the page. . . . [T]here’s something, in a literary sense, hyper-modern about [Standish’s] tendency to dart from one quarry to another, mere suggestion and primal gratification seemingly impetus enough —  the orgastic rending of Cormac McCarthy’s Western ‘Blood Meridian’ first witnessed in the hinterlands of earliest New England. In a seven-page account of a Standish-led raid, the clamor of evil practically rings off the page, an episode out of America’s own ‘Holinshed’s Chronicles.'” — Colin Fleming, San Francisco Chronicle

“[V]astly compelling. . . . Philbrick reanimates the allure, the seasickness, the gore and the contradictions within a complicated chronicle of a national origin that some 19th-century writers tended to sentimentalize for a variety of reasons, including Westward expansion, the Civil War, and the rediscovery and full publication of William Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation.” — Gretchen Gurujal, Canadian Press

“[A]t its heart, Mayflower is an eloquent testament to the human frailties responsible for so much bloodshed over the centuries–a lesson that still resonates in 2006. That’s not the only timely lesson from America’s early days. For starters, how about using religion as a rationalization for violence? Heard about that lately? That’s essentially what the Pilgrims did when they unleashed Indian allies to take vengeance on other Indians. It’s also what happened when the Pilgrims themselves massacred Indian women and children by burning crowded wigwams–in one instance from a tribe that was still at peace with them. Don’t misunderstand. This is no good-guy/bad-guy scenario. The colonists displayed mind-boggling courage, resilience and creativity in tackling the obstacles they faced. What’s more, Indian leaders were responsible for their share of unjustified violence and cruelty. Indeed, for both sides, the horrors of the late 17th century were a far cry from the golden glow of Thanksgiving legends. So why focus on the negatives at a time of coming celebrations for Jamestown’s 400th anniversary? Because those costly failures are an essential part of the story–a part we dare not ignore. We at The Free Lance-Star will be covering much more about Jamestown in the coming months–the good and the bad of that experience. The replica of the Godspeed will arrive in Stafford in 15 days. The quest for federal recognition by Virginia-based Indian tribes will continue. The story of Jamestown amounts to a continuing, complicated tale that will require our journalistic energies. It also offers an opportunity to understand more fully our history. In Mayflower, Philbrick argues that the war of 1676 was caused in part by the failure of second-generation Pilgrims to learn lessons from the first generation–hard-earned lessons of how to live and work peacefully with the Indian population. When it comes to avoiding unnecessary violence, there’s still time to learn.” — Ed Jones, The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star

“In Mayflower, Philbrick’s largest topic yet, the author’s generous distillation of the essential, his shrewdly plain way with words, his quietly dramatic pacing, his infectious fascination with the subject matter —  all make this book a rare pleasure for the reader…. Mayflower is a fine book in every way: It is packed with illustrations, not in a printer-dictated sheaf, but right in the text where the reader wants them. The historical traveler is helped by superb and numerous maps by Jeffrey L. Ward. The end notes by Philbrick, which an academic might have shoehorned into the narrative to provide his bona fides, are here sequestered in a 50-page narrative on sources —  a rich dessert after the healthy meal of the book.” — Charles Trueheart, Bloomberg News

“[This] is a history that reads like tragedy, that is populated by fallible humans on all sides and that resounds with what-if moments. . . . Mayflower is one of the best histories of unintended consequences you’re ever likely to read.” — Alden Mudge, Book Page

“This important account of the first permanent settlement in New England unfolds a rousing tale of adventure even as it prompts us to rethink America’s early history. . . . Philbrick not only tells the Pilgrims’ story from a fresh perspective, he makes it resonate with the America of 2006.” — Jack Kelly, American Heritage