Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

September 11, 2014 Audio Books, Historical Fiction 12

Hello Bookworms,

Today I’m combining two of my favorite things, historical fiction and audio books! Are you tired of me raving about audio books yet? TOO BAD! I am loooving them! I am always thrilled by the fact that my library’s audio book selection isn’t as picked over as the regular digital books and I was able to snag Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks with ZERO wait. I know, right? Exciting stuff, kiddos!

calebscrossingCaleb’s Crossing takes place waaaaaaaaay back in the day. It focuses on the exploits young Bethia Mayfield, a girl living in the tiny settlement of Great Harbor in the 1600s. Her tiny band of Puritan pioneers has found a way to live (more or less) peacefully with the indigenous population. Bethia is frustrated that though she shows more of an aptitude for learning, she is restricted and not allowed tutoring the way her brother is. In a small act of rebellion, Bethia strikes up a friendship with Caleb, one of the island’s native inhabitants. An unusual series of events bring a group of students from the island to Harvard to study, and Bethia goes along to work as a housekeeper. Because, you know, teaching a girl would have been horrible. (Dramatic eye roll. Shaking fist at history!)

This is some heady historical fiction, you guys. For me, so much of the “American History” that we covered in school left out Native Americans. I mean, they were mentioned, obviously, but all the good juicy detail was left out. History is written by the “winners” as you know. I really liked getting the Native American perspective through Caleb- it made for a nice alternative viewpoint. Aside from that, two things struck me about this book.

First, it suuuucked to be a woman in the 1600s. Maybe not as much as it sucked to be a Native American, though I can’t say that for sure, but egads. I get SO MAD when I read stories in which women are discouraged from traditional learning. Shoot, if a girl wants to learn Latin and Greek, let her, for heaven’s sake! Some girls are going to be smarter than some boys, and the fact that Bethia’s intellect was continually quashed had me all riled up.

Second, Harvard, the fantastic fabulous Harvard started out laaaaame. They were literally on the brink of starvation all the time. Being out in the wilderness was a major quality of life advantage back in the day, because do you even KNOW what a city would be like without sewers and running water? Holy olfactory overload, Batman! I’m sure Harvard puts their humble beginnings in all their pamphlets and whatnot. Maybe I’m just bitter than I don’t have an Ivy League education. But seriously. From here on out, I’m going to see “Harvard” and think “stinky starvation swamp!”

Talk to me, Bookworms. I know that the majority of y’all are ladies (though I do appreciate the fellows who frequent this site!) Do you get upset when you read about women being denied the opportunity to learn? In historical settings or (incredibly sadly) current times? 

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12 Responses to “Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks”

  1. Jenny @ Reading the End

    I do get sad when I read about women not being allowed to learn the things they wanted to learn. I read an article a while ago that a woman wrote in the 1860s, where she said that women should be allowed to learn whatever they wanted because otherwise they were just going to be TOO DAMN BORED. That was extremely poignant to me. Poor ladies of olden times.

    • Words For Worms

      SERIOUSLY! How BORING would it be to have your studies restricted and only get to mend things. Mending isn’t even recreational sewing, it’s like “fix the holes in my undergarments!” Booo.

  2. Kelly

    I took a History of Higher Education course for my master’s degree, and it was one of my favorites. Yes, most of the Ivy League schools did NOT start out as prestigiously as they’d lead you to believe!! 🙂

    And yes, it does super-suck to hear about women (past and present) not being allowed to learn. Makes you wonder how many awesome woman-created inventions were missed out on back in the day…

    • Words For Worms

      It was kind of fun learning about Harvard’s sordid past :). Can you even imagine how much awesomer the world would be if ladies had always been allowed to do all the things? Double the minds means double the progress, yes? We’d probably have flying cars by now.

  3. Amy @ Read a Latte

    Really jealous of your newfound love of/ability to listen to audiobooks without being distracted! I love them but even if I’m somewhere quiet like work I tend to miss pieces of the story here and there either talking or focusing on something else !

  4. Leila @ Readers' Oasis

    Oh my goodness, you should try Year of Wonders or People of the Book! I love Geraldine Brooks, but Caleb’s Crossing is actually my least favorite of her books.

    I went to William & Mary in Virginia–and we always like to point out that the PLANS for our college were made in 1618, nearly TWO DECADES before Harvard was founded in 1636! But the actual start of classes was derailed by Indian uprisings and general colonial difficulties and didn’t happen until after Harvard. And . . . I bet the water was pretty bad in the cesspool that was colonial Williamsburg, too. It was slightly better when I was there. 🙂

    • Words For Worms

      I have Year of Wonders on hold at the library right now! I’m excited to hear you liked it better than Caleb’s Crossing. I figured I would, regardless, because PLAGUE, but still. LOL, I had no idea William and Mary competed with Harvard for oldest college street cred! Colonial Williamsburg had such panache, though… At least according to the tour I took when I was a kid. I like government sanctioned cosplay!

Talk to me, Bookworms!

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