Naomi J. Williams | Fiction
In 1785 the Boussole and the Astrolabe set sail from France under the leadership of Jean-François de Galaup de Lapérouse. For three years the expedition of two frigates and 200 men attempt to circumnavigate the globe for science and for "the glory of France." This inventive novel is based upon their journey.
Landfalls explores the indigenous peoples the expedition encounters, the science the savants on board attempt to learn, and the relationships of the men. Though there is a structure ... each chapter tells about the adventure from a different point of view and from a different place upon the earth ... the author, Naomi J. Williams, weaves this structure together with a true story-teller's expertise. It isn't even obvious that this is the structure she is following. As a reader, you are simply swept along on the journey.
Once again, I must say, this is a remarkable first novel! Williams richly develops her characters. She avoids the caricatures we may have in our minds about long-ago sailors. No one is brutal. Drunkenness is not a major element of her story. Instead, these are real men on a real journey trying to do real work. I think one secret to her magic is how she incorporates the scientific curiosity of the sailors. I love the arguments about the value (or not) of fresh water. I am intrigued that sailing expeditions had ship's artists to capture plants, animals, land formations and people.
Landfalls (an apt and descriptive title) is definitely worth your time. Your imagination and your curiosity will be grateful.