Peter of New Amsterdam

This is a fictionalized account of the founding of the settlement of New York City, from the purchase of Manhattan Island  from the local tribe of savages/brown men/indians who were either peaceable or, well, savage, depending upon the moment.  The supposed narrator of the story, a boy (Peter) of about 10 years of age when the story begins, is an English orphan, taken by the director of the Dutch West India Company to help settle the New World.  He is then put in charge of the storehouse of items with which to barter with the locals, as an early example of “on the job training”.  The Droning Voice believes there are many current offices in which a random 10 year-old boy (or 8 year-old girl) would certainly do no worse than whomever is currently in said office, and probably would do better.  But she digresses.

Peter witnesses the purchase of the island from the locals, is impacted by the bad judgment of various directors sent over from Holland, sees the Dutch kick the Swedes out, all the while trading and skirmishing with the natives.  And THEN he gets to be on hand when the English take control,  kick out the Dutch overlords, and change the name of the settlement from “New Amsterdam” to “The Big Apple”.

If you are of such delicate sensibilities that the mention of historical terms to describe non-caucasians, you would be well-advised to skip this little selection, tedious as it may be.  Also there is reference to some pretty grotesque punishments for not attending the proper church, causing The Droning Voice to wonder what those meting out such punishments would do if they were somehow teleported to the middle of Times Square on any Friday night at any time post 1970.  She is guessing they would spontaneously combust, not that anybody in Times Square would notice.  Noticing things like that is for tourists.

This book is fiction, but the author managed to keep the plot moving at a glacial pace, so, rest assured, it  should put you right to sleep.   Pleasant dreams!

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