Tells with horrific detail the 1815 ordeal of 12 American sailors whose ship founders on the barren coast of northwestern Africa. The men endure starvation, dehydration, culture shock, and enslavement by the Saharan nomads. King, who recreated part of their journey himself, gives insightful historical and cultural context, and reveals the intercultural bonding that got the survivors to safety.
Very good book. If you want to read accounts of whites being put into slavery by Muslim northern Africans then read the book. The descriptions of the suffering and treatment is excellent as they are forced to travel through the desert.
Not the cross between Laurence of Arabia and Master and Commander that "People" magazine claimed it was, and I found myself wanting to stop reading it because I know there are some exciting survival stories out there ("Endurance" comes to mind). I finished to give the author and the captain the benefit of the doubt, but they couldn't make a happy ending where none was available. It could have been written in a more engrossing style, too.
It's one of the best books I ever read. I doubt I'd have been able to push my way through reading the original, 1817 or so, accounts of their adventures by either Capt. James Riley or Able Seaman Archibald Robbins. The early-19th century literary language used by both seamen was too flowery and dense for me. Therefore, I admire Dean King for reading both books in detail, plus many others to add to his knowledge of the times. Then King traveled along parts of the nomadic routes across the Sahara Desert, sometimes on camels. After all that research, he wrote the story of the dozen men who sailed in 1815 from New England, were shipwrecked off Morocco, sold into slavery on the Sahara Desert, and, for some of them, sailed back to Connecticut. I've rarely felt so caught up in a story. The abuse the Americans suffered at the hands of their nomadic Arab owners was almost unbelievable. How the men endured it, plus starvation, extreme thirst, scurvy, illness of the sort we don't even think of any more such as typhus and cholera, all the while hoping desperately that a British consulate officer with access to money will ransom them -- and this just 3 years after the US fought a war with England -- well, it kept the pages turning for me. In fact, so caught up was I with which men suffered which fate, that as soon as I rushed through the first reading, then I took my time and read it again. I was most impressed with Captain Riley's intense loyalty to his men in trying to see that they were all rescued, even though some of them treated him rather badly. He just wouldn't give up on them, even when it meant he suffered even more because of it.
It's an intense and thoroughly worthwhile read.
This was a little bit slow to start out, but once their ship hit the rocks off the coast of the Zahara, I simply couldn't put it down. This is a true recounting of the captain and sailors of the "Commerce", their survival as slaves to the people of the desert and the eventual ransom and rescue of some of these men through their own increasing knowledge of the culture they had been thrown into and the friendships they managed to develop. Such a good read.
very detailed, yet still captivating.
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