Monday, 10 June 2019

NEW YORK 1609 by Harald Johnson #RBRT @AuthorHarald

5 out of 5 stars

On Amazon UK
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book: it was submitted to Rosie's Book Review Team, of which I am a member, but I didn't choose it at first; I did so after reading this review on the blog of Sean, another team member.

In a Nutshell: A fictionalised history of the invasion of the land that became New York, and the city's founding.

A terrific novel, telling of the 'discovery' of Manhattan Island by Henry Hudson, and the beginning of the callous and careless ruination of the Native American way of life.  

The main character is the part-white Dancing Fish, who believes he is gifted with insight into the ways of the 'visitors' from the east.  The story starts in 1609 and moves, through four parts, through to the 1640s, as gradually the Manahate and other tribes are pushed out of their land; the book tells, also, of how they begin to take on the ways of the white man, and become less self-sufficient, something that saddens Dancing Fish.

This is a long book, but at no time did it feel over-written or padded out.  It seems like a foreshadowing of many years to come, as the greed and cunning of the 'civilised' treads into the ground and destroys a culture that had existed, successfully, for hundreds of years; indeed, it makes one question the meaning of the word 'civilised'.  Only once or twice did we see the Europeans' respect for the natives' affinity with the land, in Henry Hudson, in Boucher, an early explorer who was left behind by his party, and Marie, his daughter.

In the latter part of the story, the settlers' treatment of the natives is unbelievably brutal, sickening and heartbreaking, made worse because you know that all this and more really happened. But the ending is not without hope; Johnson's characters have a wisdom far beyond most of their enemies.

Johnson finishes with notes, in brief, about what happened afterwards, and explains which parts of his story have their grounding in fact.  Highly recommended.


  1. Thanks Terry, glad you enjoyed it.

  2. I haven't read this book but it sounds interesting. And (right up your alley, Terry!) what's sometimes overlooked is that one of the main reasons the invaders were able to push out those who had lived there for centuries wasn't superior numbers or weapons—it was diseases like smallpox to which indigenous peoples had no resistance. By some estimates, 90-95% of native peoples were wiped out in a single generation.

    1. Indeed, Barb! This very subject was explored in some depth in this book - I forgot about it by the time I came to write the review and I hadn't made notes. You're so right; one of Dancing Fish and his tribe's problems was simply that their number was more than halved.

      btw, I noticed that you're reading Mahoney, too - don't know if you've started it yet but I did so, yesterday, and it's a cracker!! Great to get a few gems in one go :)

  3. Hi Terry! Thank you for your generous and thoughtful review. A point of interest for you and your viewers/readers: while New York was the world’s first ‘megacity’ (population over 10 million)—even ahead of London—mine is the first historical novel about its birth from its earliest beginnings. And very much based on the true events of the time period. Oh, to have a time machine!

  4. I gotta read this book, Terry, as the one I am currently working on deals with the same time in the Pilgrim colony. Mahoney is great - I have a review coming.