Cover Image: Shipwrecked


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Member Reviews

A strange tale that leaves the reader confused as to whether or not the individual was guilty of what he was accused of. The story tells of a family and the trials they faced before, during, and after the civil war. The story presents a lot of information and allows the reader to draw their own conclusions. Overall a good and interesting read.

Thank you to #NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.

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It is difficult to write a review when the author is proven to be talented as a writer and specifically with the time period he or she is writing. To be more specific, Jonathan White is a very good writer, but his subject, Appleton Oaksmith, was a pathetic figure whose life does not come off well in a full length book.

"Shipwrecked" follows the life of Oaksmith before, during, and after the Civil War. Oaksmith was the target of a mutiny, did break out of jail, and became a Civil War blockade runner. The major problem is the more exciting aspects of his life are sparsely documented. The mutiny and blockade running take up very little small sections of the overall narrative. His arrest for outfitting a slave trader and the subsequent trial take up an enormous amount of room, however. This is not a good thing as the narrative drags with the back and forth between various levels of the government. It mainly feels like you are reading correspondence.

It paints me to write about the dragging of the court case because there are parts of the book which I loved. Specifically, the chapter devoted to the first man executed for participating in the slave trade is thrilling and nuanced. Earlier portions of the book which focus on Oaksmith's mother, Elizabeth Oakes Smith, a celebrated poet in her own right, are fascinating.

The final issue is that Oaksmith was a terrible person. He was clearly intending to be a slave trader and his seemingly enlightened thoughts are often probably political machinations as opposed to real attempts at growth. His treatment of his first wife, with help from his mother, was shockingly cruel on multiple levels. Ultimately, I felt I was reading about a bad person who even during his own time was seen as a detestable figure. While a book about a terrible person can certainly be interesting to read, it feels like Oaksmith was not worth White's time and skill.

(This book was provided as an advance copy by Netgalley and Rowman & Littlefield.)

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