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Caleb's Crossing Paperback – 10 May 2012

4.6 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (10 May 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007333544
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007333547
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.7 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 272,494 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


‘Plunge into the past with Caleb’s Crossing… This novel gives eloquent voice to a little-known story’ Erica Wagner, The Times, Books of the Year

‘Caleb’s Crossing could not be more enlightening and involving. Beautifully written from beginning to end, it confirms Geraldine Brooks’s reputation as one of our most supple and insightful novelists’ New York Times

‘Fascinating … Brooks has dressed the bare facts in moving and imaginative storytelling’ Kate Saunders, The Times

‘A tantalising portrait of a brief moment when two cultures might have come together in harmony’ Paul Dunn, The Times

‘This sombre, thoughtful historical novel has been imaginatively woven from a scrap of historical fact…drawn with a quiet, impressive intensity’ Metro

About the Author

Geraldine Brooks is the author of three novels, the Pulitzer Prize-winning March and the international bestsellers People of the Book and Year of Wonders. She has also written the acclaimed non fiction works Nine Parts of Desire and Foreign Correspondence. Born and raised in Australia, she lives on Martha’s Vineyard with her husband, Tony Horwitz, and their two sons.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback
Set in Martha's Vineyard in the 1650s, Geraldine Brooks' latest novel is the story of Bethia, the daughter of a Calvinist minister, member of a settlement of English colonists, and of Caleb, a Native American and son of a chieftain. Bethia grows up in the tiny settlement at Great Harbor and, although she is bright and is literate, she is, like most females of the time, denied the education that is given to her brother. However this allows Bethia more free time and she escapes whenever she can to enjoy the landscape and to watch the native inhabitants of the island. When Bethia is twelve years old, she meets Caleb who shares with her his knowledge of the natural world and, in return, she introduces him to the pleasure of books. And so starts a friendship that will have lasting consequences for both Bethia and Caleb and for those close to them - especially when Bethia's father decides to educate Caleb causing a rift between the communities on the island and particularly when Caleb feels he must change himself and adopt English ways in order to help his people. There is a huge amount more to this story which has many layers to it concerning issues of gender, race and religion but that is for prospective readers to discover.

This book is beautifully written and, in Bethia, Geraldine Brooks has created a very likeable heroine and she has taken great care (as she states in her Afterword) to try and capture the expressions and vocabulary that a young woman of Bethia's class, upbringing and beliefs might have used. 'Caleb's Crossing' is inspired by a true story (Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk was the first Native American to attend Harvard College in 1660) but the author has used her imagination to great effect to produce a marvellous story that is fascinating, thought-provoking and very absorbing.
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Format: Hardcover
Don't be misled by the title and jacket description of this book.

They will have you believe that Caleb's Crossing is about the first Native American to graduate from Harvard University in 1665.

Don't get me wrong - this is central to the story and is the reason Geraldine Brooks wrote this book.

However, alongside it is the equally powerful story of the book's narrator, Bethia Mayfield, and her detailed account of life as a woman in the mid-17th Century.

I love historical fiction and also recommend two of Brooks' previous books:

* People of the Book: A book lover's delight - a book that tells the story of a centuries old book.

* Year of Wonders: The story of an English housemaid and her village during the 1666 plague.

In Caleb's Crossing, Brooks creates a work of fiction from scant historical fact. She goes to great lengths to recreate the life and times of the era, when Native Americans were commonly referred to as "salvages" and women were required to live in the shadow of men.

She creates a strong contrast between the fiery spirit of Native American traditions and the sobering repression of English Puritan ways.

While I enjoyed the story of Caleb, for me, Bethia's story was the real drawcard of this book.

As she narrates Caleb's story and his "crossing" to English ways, Bethia also introduces us to the issues facing women of her era.

It is saddening to see her sharp wit and intelligence silenced by the prejudices of her time.

It also made me wonder: if women had been able to speak up throughout the ages, how different would the world be that we live in today?

Click on my profile above to find more of my recommended reads and visit my website to register for free email updates.
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Format: Paperback
Caleb's Crossing is the fourth novel by Geraldine Brooks. As with her other novels, fiction is built on fact. In this case the fact is the life of Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk, the young son of a Wampanoag chieftain, who, in 1665, was the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College. The story is narrated by Bethia Mayfield, the daughter of a Calvinist minister living on the island of Noepe (Martha's Vineyard), and begins when twelve-year-old Bethia meets Caleb whilst she is out gathering clams. Bethia's diary paints a vivid picture of life in an English Puritan settlement in the 17th century, and the effects on both cultures of interaction with the Native population. As events unfold, we watch Bethia, in her innocence and ignorance, using faulty logic, come to incorrect conclusions and thus suffers unwarranted guilt. As Bethia grows and matures, so does her narrative voice. The struggle between the English ministers and the Native medicine men for the acceptance of their beliefs amongst the native population is well portrayed. Caleb's stubborn uncle, medicine man Tequamuk, seems remarkably prescient on the subject of the future of Native Americans.
Each time I pick up a book, fiction or non-fiction, by Geraldine Brooks, I look at the description on the jacket and wonder if I am going to like this one. By now, I should have learned that, no matter the subject matter, this author does not disappoint her readers. The depth of her research stands out. Her characters are always well developed, the dialogue is authentic, and she manages to convey the mood and atmosphere perfectly. Brooks manages to squeeze a wealth of facts into an easily-digestible package. I laughed and cried. I especially loved Caleb's explanation and opinions on the native and English gods. I enjoyed this novel more than I expected to. It was engrossing and enlightening. The afterword was especially interesting. Once again, Brooks gives us a wonderful read.
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