2007: 151. The Path Between The Seas

“The letter, several pages in length and signed by Secretary of the Navy George M. Robeson, was addressed to Thomas O. Selfridge.  It was an eminently clear, though formal document, as expected, and had a certain majesty of tone that Commander Selfridge thought quite fitting.”

The Path Between The Seas, David McCullough -

When Jon and I were in Ecuador, I brought a number of books that I thought would be appropriate to read, and then fell into a fit of despair that all my books were boring and good for me.  So, I convinced him, with my wily ways, to take me to the English language used bookstore*, and there I found a copy of David McCullough’s The Path Between The Seas.  Which was a perfect book because it was sort of relevant (well, it takes place in Central America, at least), super interesting, and nice and long, so I wouldn’t run out of things to read.  And, since, as you can see, I didn’t actually finish it until September 25th, it fit the bill nicely.**

The book was super interesting. It didn’t surprise me that it was well written and that it synthesized a long and complex story into a coherent narrative (albeit a 622 page narrative) - I have read enough McCullough*** to know that he does what he does well.  What did surprise me is how interested I became in the history of an engineering project - and how he was able to really make the reader understand what a crazy and complicated undertaking building the canal was.  The scope of this project was something I’d never really thought about (hadn’t thought much about the canal at all, if I am to be honest) but the book makes clear what a fantastic and ridiculous endeavor the canal turned out to be.  I also personally found the whole French endeavor at the canal part to be unputdownably interesting - with the yellow fever and the bad decision making and the smell of doom.  Once the Americans got in and were organized (ish) and figured it out (eventually) the book got, if not less interesting, less flamboyantly romantic.  Still, this is a heck of a book, and I am going to seek out the Brooklyn Bridge and Johnston Flood books, for sure.


Recommended for:  People who like reading history books - even if you think you aren’t interested in the Panama Canal, this is a story that is worth reading about, since everything and the kitchen sink goes into this tale; People who have crushes on old T.R.****


* Which was run by an American, and called Confederate Books, flag and all.  Something odd going on there, for sure, but I chose to ignore it in my desperation!


**Although this is mostly because once I got home I put it down and forgot about it for a few weeks, then picked it up and finished it again.  This should not be seen as judgment on the book as much as my general flakiness, though.


*** Truman, John Adams, Brave Companions and Mornings on Horseback.


**** That’s Teddy Roosevelt, as we in the know call him!


Date/Place Completed: 9/25/07; D.C.

Categories:  Non-Fiction

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017