Title: 1492: A Novel of Christopher Columbus, the Spanish Inquisition, and a World at the Turning Point
Author: Newton Frohlich
Purchase: Available now in the U.S.
Overall rating: 4/5
Great for: History buffs
Themes: Adventure, history, religious tension, travel
Review: This book was originally written in 1990 but is being re-released on Columbus Day this year. Christopher Columbus (referred to in this book as Cristoforo Colombo) has become a less-than-popular historical figure these days, as the memorable schoolhouse rhyme “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue” has sort of morphed into “In 1492, Columbus actually landed in what’s now the Bahamas.” Despite the fact that he’s frequently credited with discovering America despite never actually setting foot there, Columbus did bring with him the practice of slavery, forced Christianity, and deadly diseases, prompting many to refer to the October holiday instead as Indigenous Peoples Day.
‘1492’ is one of those great examples of historical fiction that allows you to dive deep into a new world without even realizing how much you’re learning as you go. Queen Isabel is possibly the most interesting of the characters, embroiled in a battle against the Arabs and obsessed with her belief that the Jews are cursing Spain while Columbo hides his own Jewish background and rallies her for funding for his exploration.
This book doesn’t focus so much on Christopher Colombus’ actual voyage but more on the time leading up to it. Because of the religious tension of the Inquisition, with Muslims controlling most trade routes, Colombo comes into play because he believes he can reach the east by sailing west. For readers looking to gain a real sense of what Spain in the late 1400’s felt like, ‘1492’ is the perfect way to achieve that without the dry text of a history book.