THE ISLAND AT THE CENTER OF THE WORLD: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan, the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America

Russell Shorto, Author, L. J. Ganser, Narrated by , read by L.J. Ganser. Recorded Books $34.99 (0p) ISBN 978-1-4193-0044-8

Mining a trove of recently translated 17th-century records of New Netherland, Shorto reconstructs, in fascinating detail, the little-told story behind the Dutch settlement and its capital, Manhattan. In it, listeners meet a wide cast of characters, from early governors Peter Minuit and Peter Stuyvesant to princes, explorers, smugglers, settlers, Indians, Puritans, prostitutes and slaves. It's hard to imagine any narrator's voice remaining fresh and compelling through 15 hours of sweeping historical narrative, but Ganser comes close. In a voice imbued with robustness, Ganser juggles the delivery not only of characters, but of cultures, eras, lexicons and the occasionally intrusive persona of the author. These various layers are rendered, for the most part, in authentic fashion. Shorto's prose, however, can be overwrought and, because the narrative is built on volumes of oft-arcane legal documents, he is partial to listing, which overwhelms the ear. In addition, with so dense a narrative terrain, many listeners will lament the audiobook's lack of maps and other illustrations. But these are mostly minor quibbles when measured against the grand scope of Shorto's fascinating history and Ganser's admirable performance. Based on the Doubleday hardcover (Forecasts, Feb. 9). (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 10/04/2004
Release date: 07/01/2004
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!