December 22, 2015

Book 57: Landfalls

Naomi J. Williams

This book offers a realistic imagined version of a circumnavigational voyage helmed by French Commodore Jean-François de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse, in the late 18th century. Reading almost like a novel in stories, each chapter offers a different point of view based on one of the expedition's ports of call, following everyone from the voyage's officers and seamen to those waiting for them at home and those whom the expedition encountered along their travels. The mix of perspectives and storytelling techniques keeps the book fresh and rounds out the story, lending it a sense of realism unmatched by many historical novels, particularly those (like this one) that must, by necessity, fill in numerous gaps from the actual historical record. Williams is a deft writer and the reading experience is as engrossing as it is gently educational; clearly based on serious research, the stories never lose sight of the humanity behind the events, and each is compelling while adding to the tapestry of the whole. Landfalls is an excellent fictional introduction to a relatively unknown scientific pursuit, a well-imagined take on what might have been on an ill-fated journey into the unknown.

Grade: A

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