Friday, 6 March 2009

The unredeemed captive


I just wanted to pull down a couple of books from the shelves and give them a bit more exposure. I mentioned The Unredeemed Captive yesterday, but I make no apologies for mentioning it again. Most of my non-fiction books are there to give me a fairly neutral grounding in a subject or to confirm or add detail to things I already know a little about. Others like John Demos' book are there with all the force and imaginative presence of a good novel.

The Last of the Mohicans probably began my interest in the Woodland Indians of northeast America. I don't really know why I find them so fascinating but I do. John Demos tells the story of a raid by a French and Indian war party on Deerfield Massachusetts in 1704. Puritan minister John Williams, his wife and five children were captured. Rev Williams was released two and a half years later and spent the next ten years trying to buy back - redeem - his surviving daughter Eunice. But Eunice was more Mohawk than Puritan by then. It is an amazing story, but even a story as good as this can be crushed by bad writing. John Demos tells it brilliantly.

And a lovely cover too. It is a very clever and subtle reworking by illustrator Walton Ford of Bruegel's Hunters in the Snow. There is enough of Bruegel to make it a lovely picture but not so much that it is simply a rip-off or a pastiche.

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