Two surprises:one pleasant and one, well not so pleasant

Finished two books recently and each was a surprise. One book I thought would not be that good was in fact a pretty darn good book.  The other book however, wasn’t. Based on the reputation of the author’s previous work, I had high expectations of his latest offering. Unfortunately, I was disappointed.

The first book was John Bailey’s 2005 non-fiction work The Lost German Slave Girl. Set in mid-19th century New Orleans, it chronicles the true story of slave Sally Miller and her protracted battle to have herself legally declared a white woman and thereby emancipated.  I liked
this book. The writing was straightforward and readable and the
courtroom scenes, which I thought would be slow and tedious actually
made for interesting reading. This was a good book to kickoff 2009.
The other book, 1434 by Gavin Menzies was well, another story. Some of you might be familiar with Gavin Menzies’s earlier book 1421in which Menzies put forth the radical idea that the Americas were discovered by the Chinese decades before Columbus. In 1434 Menzies argues the Renaissance was jump-started as a result of a
seminal meeting between the Imperial Chinese fleet and 15th century
Italians. After reading this book, I just didn’t buy it. Not only are
his arguments weak, but his book really isn’t written that well. In all
likelihood 1434 is a bit of “rush job” following on the heels on his previous book 1421. This is all sad because I really wanted to like this book. Oh well, better luck next time, Menzies.

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