Landfalls-Naomi J. Williams
A fictionalized account of the failed French scientific journey that meant to challenge Cook's expedition.
When you hear that this is the story of a failed sailing journey you think you know what to expect. Sailors, scholars, and officers setting off in optimism, not knowing, as you do, that they are sailing to their death with all the melodrama you can handle.
This is not one of those novels. No, what Williams does is much more subtle. She doesn't focus on the overall tragedy, she instead takes you on a journey via numerous narrators who all experience their own tragedies. These tragedies are big and small, personal and collective. Instead of an account of desperation, Williams is writing a series of stories about missed connections. From the beginning story of the expedition engineer picking up equipment to the final story about a ship checking the maps made, you get the sense of things that could have been gained but were lost. Friendships and partnerships that could have been and aren't, friendships that must end because duty decrees it, partnerships that fail to support those in it, and friends who support each other despite their disagreements but are rent asunder. As such, this book worms its way inside in a way that a more typical historical fiction writing style simply would not. The voices of the narrators are different and the people they encounter are varied and unpredictable but this is a story of trying to make connections even with those with whom you cannot communicate and as such it becomes timeless. Yes, there is a lot of French pride and superiority and a strong colonialist bent to the mission but still, the struggle to connect could be in any setting.