In recent times, Christopher Columbus’ success in discovering the New World has been repainted to reflect some of the horrors that he brought upon its inhabitants, in turn making some question whether he really should be given a national holiday here in the U.S. The child in me who grew up making collages and paintings of the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria each October was definitely disillusioned.
There is much more to Christopher Columbus, however, than the outcome of his journey to the Americas. In his book 1492: A Novel of Christopher Columbus, the Spanish Inquisition & a World at the Turning Point, Newton Frohlich paints a fascinating picture of Columbus in the years leading up to his departure for the New World.
Well researched and written as a historical novel, Newton Frohlich’s revised tale is captivating and provided a remarkable look into a side of the Spanish Inquisition of which I knew little. Read on to learn more about this amazing tale, to be released on Columbus Day.
St Martins Press
October 10, 2016
1492 opens in fifteenth-century Spain, which was, by any standard, a terrifying place. Throughout the Inquisition, torture, betrayal, and unexpected courage were expected elements of day-to-day life. The Muslim world struggled to keep the West in an economic vise, the Christian world fought back against their control of its trade routes, and Jews were caught in the middle: tortured if they assimilated, expelled or killed if they clung to their heritage.
1492 centers on a man who had one foot in the Jewish world, the other in the Christian world, and the radical idea that he could sail West to reach the East: Cristoforo Colombo. But contrary to what history books have led us to believe, Queen Isabella did not sell her jewels to fund Cristoforo’s voyage. The truth involves the Jewish investor, Luis de Santangel; Christopher Columbus’s Christian wife, Filipa, who gave him social acceptance and valuable contacts; and the beautiful and talented Jewish woman, Beatriz, who entered his life several years after the death of his wife.
I confess, I knew little about Christopher Columbus outside of that which we learn as schoolchildren: that Queen Isabella funded Columbus’ journey to find a new trade route to the West Indies, and that his journey proved the Earth was round – contrary to popular belief at the time.
Frohlich’s novel clears up many of these myths with a novel that was eye-opening, and quite honestly, difficult to put down. He succeeds in painting a vivid picture of a fascinating, focused man intent on proving a theory he had developed that would take him to the West Indies by sailing west. As fascinating, however, is the backdrop on which the story is set: 15th century Spain. In all the history I have read on the Spanish Inquisition, I was not aware of its horrific impact on the Jewish people living in Spain at that time; it was this part of the narrative that I found most compelling. The parallels between Muslims, Jews and Christians both then and today are, honestly, a bit frightening.
The storytelling is simply superb. Whether you are a history buff or a fan of historical fiction (Phillippa Gregory fans will be delighted), this novel will not disappoint! I really enjoyed it, and I highly recommend it.
Sharing the words to author Frohlich from a priest in the Columbina Library in the Cathedral of Seville: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” If all of history could be retold in such a vivid, readable manner, many would be far more likely to remember it.
About the Author:
Newton Frohlich is the award-winning author of The Shakespeare Mask: A Novel, as well as 1492: A Novel of Christopher Columbus, the Spanish Inquisition & a World at the Turning Point and Making the Best of It: A Common-Sense Guide to Negotiating a Divorce. A former lawyer in Washington, D.C., he devoted eight years to the research and writing of 1492. He has lived in Washington, D.C., the south of France, and Israel and now makes his home on Cape Cod with his wife, Martha, a musicologist.
Disclosure: I was provided an advance copy of 1492. All opinions are my own.