Sunday, October 09, 2011

Book Review: "The Pilgrim"

Hugh Nissenson's The Pilgrim (Sourcebooks Landmark, 2011) is the tale of one Charles Wentworth—not the picareseque Charles Wentworth of the 1770 novel, but an earlier Charles Wentworth, whose struggles with himself, his fellow man, and God are chronicled here in the form of a "written confession."

Nissenson's Wentworth, the son of a Puritan minister, has practically seen it all even before he signs on to occupany Thomas Weston's expedition to Wessagusset in 1622: he's only in his early twenties then, but has already witnessed the (often gruesome) deaths of many of those close to him. And that's before he tries to live through a Massaschusetts winter with a bunch of ill-prepared, ill-provisioned adventurers.

While he's taken some liberties with the Wessagusset story, Nissenson's fictional account certainly could be a worse retelling of the ill-fated colonial endeavor. Wentworth's humanity comes through well in the way he recounts his own history, and I liked how Nissenson put his narrator's "scrivener's habit" of list-making to effective use.

Overall, I liked this well-researched and clearly-written novel.

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