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Caliban's Shore: The Wreck of the Grosvenor and the Strange Fate of Her Survivorsby Stephen Taylor
Synopses & Reviews
IN THE SUMMER OF 1783 the grandees of the East India Company were horrified to learn that one of their finest ships, the 741-ton "Grosvenor, had been lost on the wild and unexplored coast of southeast Africa. Astonishingly, most of those on board reached the shore safely--91 members of the crew and 34 wealthy, high-born passengers, including women and children. They were hundreds of miles from the nearest European outpost--and they were not alone. "They surveyed one another with mutual incomprehension: on the one hand the dishevelled castaways; on the other, black warriors with high conical hairstyles, daubed with red mud. . . ." Drawing upon unpublished material and new research, Stephen Taylor pieces together the strands of this compelling saga, sifting the myths from a reality that is no less gripping. Full of unexpected twists, "Caliban's Shore takes the reader to the heart of what is now South Africa, to analyze the misunderstandings that led to tragedy, to tell the story of those who returned, and to unravel the mystery of those who stayed.
"The Grosvenor's passengers and crew feared shipwreck and death, but 'shipwreck and survival was not a possibility that anyone had much considered.' When the England-bound mercantile ship ran aground in heavy seas off Africa on August 4, 1782, death would have been easier for the 125 who made it ashore. Drawing primarily on two contemporary reports, British historian Taylor reassembles the Grosvenor's story with precision and vision, making each passenger a character and each incident a fate twist. Merchants and children, Anglicans and Muslims, officers and gentlewomen were stranded without weapons or food on shores inhabited by the Pondo tribe in present-day South Africa. Fearful that the peaceful natives would turn hostile, the survivors struck out along the coast for known European settlements. But the bad decision-making that had resulted in shipwreck produced more disaster, and, by the end, only 13 survivors of the wreck are accounted for. Over the years, as news of the fate of the Grosvenor and its passengers drifted back to Britain, the ship and its fate became legendary, even Dickens contributing. The book may not resonate for Americans as much as for more direct descendants of the British Empire, but Taylor has brought the ship and its survivors to modern eyes with this commendable work. Photos. Agents, Caroline Dawnay and Peter Matson. (July)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Book News Annotation:
The Grosvenor was a 741-ton symbol of the Empire, plying its trade around Cape Horn from India to England and back. In August 1782 she ran onto the rocks of southeast Africa, casting most of the crew and passengers, including women and children, on shore. As they struggled on what is wisely called the Wild Coast, they found that the effete failed and the brawny survived in a place that was totally alien to all of them. Working from contemporary reports, diaries, and his experience of the terrain, journalist Taylor traces the path of the Grosvenor and the fate of her survivors, including men and women who may have joined the people of the Wild Coast completely and permanently.
Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
In 1783, 125 Europeans found themselves shipwrecked in a frightful land. Taylor takes the reader to the heart of South Africa to analyze the misunderstandings that led to tragedy, tell the story of those who returned, and unravel the mystery of those who stayed.
About the Author
Raised in South Africa, Stephen Taylor has been a correspondent for British and U.S. newspapers in Africa, Asia, and Australia. He lives in England. This is his fourth book.
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