Historical Fiction: Cape Cod, by William Martin

Cape Cod

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Bigelows and the Hilyards have lived on Cape Cod for going on four centuries, and they began getting on each other’s nerves while still on the Mayflower. William Martin, way back in 1992, wrote a saga about these families. Jack Hilyard is a nonconformist trouble maker, and Ezra Bigelow builds his life around what he perceives to be divine providence. Right down to the present day, their descendants have feuded about land, religion, race relations, money, independence, and whatever other issue is important at the moment.

But it seems the Mayflower’s captain, Christopher Jones, wrote a journal about the journey, and that pesky book has been appearing and disappearing ever since he returned to England. For Jones writes about the mysterious death of Governor Bradford’s wife, and Ezra Bigelow was the last person to see her alive. What a coup it would be locate this priceless account; the financial return alone would be fabulous, never mind that one of the feuding clans would finally have the last laugh on the other.

The historical sections of Cape Cod are well done, and the family stories are engaging, particularly because Martin has done his homework. The 20th century descendants, however, descend into squabbling and bickering about money, money, money. The old and new parts of the saga are presented alternately, and I found myself skipping the new stuff to return to the historical. Martin managed to steer clear of annoying anachonisms, and made it fun to learn about how people learned to survive and then thrive on the arm-shaped spit of land that juts off the eastern side of Massachusetts.

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