I have read four Alan Moorehead books over the years, “The White Nile”, “The Blue Nile”, “The Voyage of the Beagle” and “The Fatal Impact”. I picked up my copy of “The Fatal Impact” a few days ago, and decided to re-read it. It is the story of the opening of the south Pacific – with sections on Tahiti, Australia and Antarctica.
When I first read the book, ten or fifteen years ago, I was enthralled, knowing virtually nothing about the voyages of Captain James Cook, very little about the first convict-settlers in Australia, and even less about whaling and sealing off the coast of Antarctica in the 19th century.
Re-reading it, I am aware of some other things. Moorehead’s prose is not very good. He is basically cribbing from journals of the early travelers, with little apparent original thought involved. And he speaks of the natives of Tahiti, Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand in extremely condescending terms (using words he would not use in 2008; he wrote the book in 1966).
I loved the other three books, and thought about looking at them again, as well. But now I wonder. Should I let sleeping books lie?