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The Sleaziest Shipwreck
The Wreck of the Medusa by Jonathan Miles
© 2013 James LaFond
For the past few years I have been engaged in writing a series of sci-fi novels about time travel. One of the premises is the use of such technology to bring people forward out of the past who would not be missed historically. The victims of shipwrecks and other disasters would be natural candidates for such retrievals. So I have embarked on a reader’s journey into shipwreck literature as a form of research and have found myself highly entertained.
The Wreck of the Medusa
The Most Famous Sea Disaster of the Nineteenth Century
Jonathan Miles
Atlantic Monthly Press, NY, 2007, 309 pages
This book focuses on the intertwined fates of two Frenchmen: Alexandre Correard, patriot and embittered survivor; and Theodore Gericault, an artist losing his mind. The book is as much about the famous painting of the Medusa survivors by Gericault as it is about the disaster itself, survived and publicized by Correard.
The story has all the makings of a tragic disaster movie. And, like any good disaster filmmaker, the author does not forget to fill in the back stories, plight and fates of the many nearly anonymous victims of this terrible manmade fiasco. In actuality, Jonathan Miles, in writing The Wreck of the Medusa, crafted a median by which Gericault and Correard could bring the story of the disaster’s villains and victims across the centuries to us; no small feat of time-travel you might say.
For students of the Napoleonic Wars, for those who have an interest in 19th Century European Colonialism, or those who wonder about the Age of Sail in general, this is a very informative book. The story though, and the gruesome inequitable tragedy of regular people cast into horrid circumstances by immoral fools, screams at you. When you pick up this book and look into the cover art that is Gericault’s famous painting, you might find yourself repelled or intrigued—or perhaps both.
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