Voyage of Strangers
In October of 1492, Christopher Columbus set foot on a small island in the West Indies – yet another of those ‘small step for man, giant leap for mankind’ moments, permanently changing the course of history. For Spain, Columbus’s discovery would lead to riches and a far-flung empire. For the natives of America, his boot-print in the damp sand of San Salvadore heralded slavery and destruction. Zelvin’s book is narrated by a young Jewish man, Diego Mendoza, who has accompanied Columbus, not only out of a desire to see the world and find gold, but also to flee the Inquisition. In some ways as much an outsider as the Taino natives, Diego brings reflection and morality to a story of the plunder and rape of an entire people destroyed by the Spanish hunger for gold. When Diego accompanies Columbus on his second journey to the new continent, he is accompanied by his little sister, disguised as a pageboy, and with Rachel Mendoza, Zelvin’s story gains an enchanting protagonist – courageous, outspoken, and wise beyond her years.
Not only does Zelvin present us with a captivating fictionalized depiction of the Spanish conquest of Hispaniola, she also paints a vibrant and well-researched picture of Spain – especially Andalucia – under the rule of Their Most Catholic Majesties, Isabel and Fernando. The rich historical setting and the engaging Mendoza siblings combine with Zelvin’s writing skills to make this a most enjoyable and thought-provoking read.
(e-book edition reviewed)