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Death Stalks Kettle Street
John Bowen

The first Native American to graduate from Harvard University

Caleb's Crossing - Geraldine Brooks

The first Native American to graduate from Harvard University.

This was the fourth book I'd read by Geraldine Brooks, whose novel, The Year of Wonders is one of my all-time favourites. Unfortunately Caleb's Crossing didn't quite grab me in the same way, possibly because the historical character didn't feature centrally in the narrative. In addition, being historical fiction, the ending was decreed by history and my reaction was 'Oh no, after all that!', but of course, that was not a failing on Ms Brooks' part.

The main character was Bethia, who first meets Caleb as a child, wandering the countryside near her home. They share a love for their country and meet in secret, for their liaison, though innocent, would be disapproved of. Later she works at the university, attempting to glean what learning she can, while working behind the scenes.

It is the story of the desperate search for learning, for Bethia, as a Christian woman in the seventeenth century, and for Caleb, as a downtrodden 'native' in his newly-white country. It also narrates the early days of the college that was to become the noble institution of Harvard University.

Very little is known about Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck, the first Wampanoag to attend university and get an education, despite of all the prejudices against him. He graduted in 1665.

This was an interesting read and I learned a fair bit from it, but it was rather slow moving and required some effort to keep going.
I listened to the unabridged 12 hours and 9 minutes audio version, narrated by Jennifer Ehle, perhaps some editing would have helped keep my attention.

 

Also read by Geraldine Brooks:
The Year of Wonders: 5 stars
People of the Book: 3 stars
Nine Parts of Desire (non-fiction): 5 stars