Friday, November 04, 2016

691 (2016 #46). Empire of the Summer Moon

by S. C. Gwynne

My husband and I read this book because the author was invited to speak in our small town, the seat for our county which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.  Comanches roamed the area before the county's founding, and the highest point in the county, Comanche Peak (more a mesa), was once a Native American meeting place.

The long title and subtitle are somewhat misleading:  Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History.  The Comanches weren't an empire and really not a tribe; rather, they were a group of bands with shifting leadership - anyone who could pull together a raiding party could be a chief.  The book really isn't about Quanah Parker, either, until the last few chapters.

The title sounds a lot like an article in Texas Monthly magazine.  That's not all that surprising, because author S. C. Gwynne has been with that magazine since 2000, and was with Time Magazine for twelve years before that.  To my husband and me, the book had the feel of a number of magazine articles being grouped together, in that its structure was not always linear, but involved a lot of repetition and backtracking.

Gwynne is a journalist, not a historian, and I was bothered that the book seemed ethnocentric.  Still, I learned a lot about the Comanches, including Quanah Parker and his mother Cynthia Ann Parker; those who fought them, particularly Sul Ross, Ranald Mackenzie, and Jack Hays; and other captives, such as Herman Lehmann and Rachel Parker Plummer. I'm glad I read the book, but I am not sure I would recommend it to others.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[This book was borrowed from and returned to my university library.]

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