Friday, May 8, 2009

Book Notes: Skeletons on the Zahara

It is a running joke in our house that my husband's favorite books all contain the line, "And then, we had to eat the sled dogs." Yes, he mostly reads history books and historical biographies, but his favorite favorite books involve arctic adventure, shipwrecks, exploration, cannibalism, lost treasure, and the like. So when Hubby recommends a book, I give him a long hard stare before I take him up on it. I even cross examine him: "Is it all about battles? Does anyone freeze to death? Does it involve cannibalism?" When he answered "no" to the above questions, I agreed to read Skeletons on the Zahara, his recent favorite and one he has been recommending to everyone he talks to. It sounded fascinating -- in 1815, shipwrecked New England sailors are captured in the Sahara desert and forced into slavery. An interesting slice of history from the pirate age. Now, halfway through, I am struggling to finish and I have a new question to ask before I read any book Hubby suggests: "Does anyone in the book drink urine?" I am too German to stop reading a book once I start, but this one is testing my resolve. It was bad enough to read about slaughtering a pig while adrift in a lifeboat, eating it raw and drinking its blood. But drinking urine -- human and camel, so far -- is a major theme of this book. Including a Moby Dick-like digression into the science and anecdotal history of shipwreck survivors drinking urine. Hubby owes me, big time.


  1. I cannot imagine reading a series of books with this subject matter. Bleah.

    Do they consider drinking urine tantamount to suicide? Having done a little research along those lines, I'm just asking. (No problem if you'd rather not give it any more thought.)

  2. J.G. -- I shudder to think that you researched this issue!

    The people in this book didn't have the science or metaphysical wherewithall to consider the suicidal implications of drinking their own pee. It was 1815 and they were naked in the Sahara for a month -- they were pretty much out of their minds.

    I can't wait for this book to be over.


  3. I laughed so hard I nearly wet my pants.

  4. Laura -- good thing you aren't stranded in the Sahara!


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