Book – After her call-out in Jen’s Hamilton review for the also-excellent Lafayette in the Somewhat United States, I thought it was high time that Sarah Vowell had a blog post all to herself. And now that I’ve made it through one whole sentence and have lulled you into a false sense of security, there’s half-a-chance you won’t instantly click away when I try to convince you that you might have fun with a book about the Puritans.
No, wait–really, though! I wouldn’t have believed it myself before The Wordy Shipmates, but the history of the Massachusetts Bay Colony can (and in this case does) read as the tale of a group of quirky, infighting, self-important but also idealistic world-travelers who were, paradoxically, equal parts ruggedly individualist and staunchly authoritarian. In fact, Vowell’s whole point is that our mental image of stern, humorless old men and women in weird buckled hats ignores the fact that the earliest European settlers in America were actually, y’know, people. They had foibles and feuds and personalities that most histories tend to bury under a sea of brown homespun, but which Vowell makes it her mission to bring to light. What I love about all of Vowell’s history books–but something which may or may not be your cup of tea, so fair warning–is the casual and personal tone of her writing. She is not a detached historian writing from a distance; she is a character in her own story, discussing American history as it relates to herself in the present and thereby, I think, making it relatable for her readers too. She is funny and personable, and learning history from her is like hearing it from a friend.