From Publishers Weekly
In 1914, Katherine Routledge (1866-1935) arrived at Easter Island, leading an anthropological and archeological expedition with her husband, William Scoresby Routledge, to investigate the origins of the island's mysterious giant statues. Although she made several critical discoveries about the Rapa Nui culture during her 17 months of research, the expeditionary force was wracked by internal tensions, and she found herself caught up in a native uprising led by a charismatic prophetess. Van Tilburg, a leading contemporary authority on the Easter Island statues, ably explains Routledge's findings, fitting them in the context of the adventurous chain of events, and shows how they were facilitated by her relationships with the locals. The biography is also excellent in tracing Katherine's obsessive research methods back to her childhood experiences in a wealthy English clan with a history of mental illness. Routledge struggled with symptoms of schizophrenia for most of her life, interpreting the voices in her head with a combination of her family's visionary Quakerism and a belief in communication with the dead. Though Routledge ultimately succumbed to her disease, dying alone in an insane asylum, Van Tilburg carefully shows that the symptoms were under control throughout the Easter Island expedition. Much as A Beautiful Mind did for John Nash, this biography preserves Routledge's invaluable scientific contributions without shying away from the tragic circumstances of most of the rest of her life.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
*Starred Review* Englishwoman Katherine Pease Routledge, born in 1866, wanted a life of discovery, not domesticity. Extremely intelligent, curious, diligent, and fearless, she attended Oxford, where women students were barely tolerated, and majored in anthropology. Already hearing voices, the first intimation of the paranoid schizophrenia that would eventually hijack her life, Katherine was at her best while doing fieldwork, first in Africa and then on Easter Island, which became her much loved spiritual home. The story of how Katherine-- forthright, independently wealthy, intrepid, and ambitious--married the scientifically inclined, nomadic, and irascible William Scoresby Routledge and then organized a complicated, contentious, dangerous, and unprecedented expedition to splendidly isolated and enigmatic Easter Island is extraordinary on all fronts. And Van Tilburg, herself an Easter Island expert who has worked with the great-grandson of Juan Tepano, the islander who helped Katherine discern aspects of his culture no outsider ever considered before, tells the extraordinary story of an extraordinary woman extraordinarily well. Animated in her descriptions, sensitive in her insights, and agile in her scientific and cultural knowledge, she brings to life a brilliant and courageous "natural-born ethnographer" whose arduous and groundbreaking fieldwork ascertained the origins of Easter Island's astonishing giant stone statues as well as their surprisingly relevant social and ecological significance. Donna SeamanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved