Brendan’s Alternate Tagline for Gallop Towards the Sun:
Be careful trusting a dude with three first names.
The story of Tecumseh and William Henry Harrison as they battled both literally and figuratively.
Fact for Non-History People:
Presidential trivia! William Henry Harrison is the shortest serving president since he gave a long inauguration speech in bad weather and died of pneumonia. If you read this book you will know it could not have happened to a nicer guy…..
Fact for History Nerds:
There is a battle where the American Indians beat the Americans so badly that it was never given a name.
My Take on Gallop Towards the Sun:
I’ve always wanted to punch Thomas Jefferson. After reading Peter Stark’s Gallop Toward the Sun, I want to punch William Henry Harrison, too. (Additional fun fact: My original review did not expand on this thought and a guy on Goodreads called me out for what he thought was historical relativism argument and I think he thought I was a liberal leaning person who was applying current perspectives retroactively. Long story short, because he was way off base, I want to punch Harrison because Stark very clearly paints him as a hypocrite and coward of sorts. Hypocrites and cowards always suck.)
Stark’s book looks at the lives of American Indian leader Tecumseh and the jerk William Henry Harrison. Stark puts a bright spotlight on how Harrison was a major tool (and I mean that in two different ways) in stealing Native lands out from under them with shady deals, debt, and graft. Harrison is often remembered as the shortest serving president since he died one month after taking office. We ducked a bullet on that one, America.
While Stark is one of my favorite authors, there are some missteps in the narrative. Part I sets up the conflict between Harrison and Tecumseh leading to war. I found myself wanting to skip ahead because much of the set up doesn’t directly include Harrison or Tecumseh in places. I still liked much of what Stark was writing, but the book is really about these two larger than life figures and when they disappear from the book it can be frustrating. Part II, which deals with the War of 1812, runs into the same problems. The Battle of Lake Erie is the standout, and it is extremely compelling. However, Harrison and Tecumseh are once again on the sidelines for this.
This may sound like the book is unfulfilling but it is in fact still quite good. The narrative issues I mention do not ruin the book but merely take it from “great” down to “very good.” Stark is too excellent a writer to ever have a bad book. This one just needed a better focus to be truly great.
(This book was provided as an advance copy by Netgalley and Random House.)
A really interesting book with a story you won’t find in many other places. Buy it here!
If You Liked This Try:
- Tobey Pearl, Terror to the Wicked
- Matthew Pearl, The Taking of Jemima Boone
- James Warren, God, War, and Providence