Friday, April 16, 2010

Unfinished Friday: Half Moon

Half Moon
Henry Hudson and the Voyage that Redrew the Map of the New World

Author: Douglas Hunter
Format: 308 pg galley proof
Subject: Maritime exploration and navigation (non-fiction)
Setting: 1608, North Atlantic, North America
Genre: non-fiction, history
Source: ARC from publisher Bloomsbury Press

Well every once in awhile, you get a book that is interesting but unreadable. When I find I'm stopping every 2 or 3 minutes to look back or refer to something else, I can't get into a book, and that's not reading---it's schoolwork.  I'm done with that!

Don't get me wrong, if you have an extensive background in celestial navigation, and are familiar with ships (particularly 17th century ones) and navigational charts and soundings, this book is probably readable.  I'm just not qualified to say that.  In principle, I understand everything that Hunter is writing about.  I have a degree in math so I passed physics. I served in the Navy, I've passed basic sailing courses, and done some sailing, but this book is not written to be a sit down and enjoy it book for the non-professional.  There's a lot to love for the historian, and I tried skimming and skipping parts that did not readily register, but I found I was having to skip too much, make too many references to all the different names I had to jot down to keep the players straight, and was constantly referring to a map so I could see just where the line was for 45 degrees north etc., etc.

I asked my husband, a retired Navy surface ship sea captain and then retired high school history teacher, to read a few passages.  He read, looked up, turned the cover and said "Who wrote this?"  He was not impressed and suggested I would be better off letting it rest for awhile until I had NOTHING ELSE TO DO.

I read 95 pages. Here's just a sample of what I felt I couldn't deal with anymore.  After the latest series of  four or more pages of turnings, soundings, sightings, on pg. 90:
None of this cartographic confusion would have mattered, had the wind not then turned against Hudson, compelling him to retreat almost due East*
with the footnote then elucidating(?)thusly:
*Juet gave the course as "south-east and by east," which is a bearing of 123 degrees. With his corrections for magnetic variation applied of 17 degrees, we arrive at 106 degrees: 16 degrees southward of east, hence my description "almost due east."
At that point I gave up.  It's going onto the "give it another look someday" shelf, with my current notes tucked into it. I don't really care how he arrived at that description, although I can understand how Hunter wants to be sure his work and his premises are considered historically accurate.  He certainly has researched thoroughly and uses primary sources to the hilt.  It is an academic tour de force.  I'm just not ready to read at that level.  It's a shame it couldn't have been published in a plain English version for those who want the history without having to wrap their brains around all the science.


  1. that is a shame, because i think Henry Hudson is a wonderful topic.

    perhaps it is not meant for a general audience, like we folk. of course he sure can't expect to sell many copies then.
    he sure won't sell me one.

  2. That makes me feel better.. because I had wanted one.. glad I didn't get it for review!

  3. Now this book subject had the potential to be very interesting but just from your quotes, I can see that I would pass it by with nary a glance. Unfortunate!

  4. When I do research for a project, the hardest thing is to stop and say "enough." Writers must realize that they don't need to include absolutely everything they know. Apparently this writer felt the need to do just that. What a shame!


Welcome, thanks for stopping by. Now that you've heard our two cents, perhaps you have a few pennies to throw into the discussion. Due to a bunch more anonymous spam getting through, I've had to disallow anonymous comments. I try to respond to all comments posing a question, but may not always get to you right away.