Among Stone Giants: The Life of Katherine Routledge and Her Remarkable Expedition to Easter Island Hardcover – Dec 12 2003
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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 Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top Customer Reviews
Knowing a little of Katherine Routledge and her times, I found van Tilburg's narrative unconvincing. Perhaps it would be unfair to expect an author working from America to understand the absurd and divisive nuances of British notions of class, though class was a key factor in Routledge's life. I bridled, however, at the author's repeated insistence on Routledge's mental illness. Has van Tilburg seen evidence for this, perhaps from Routledge's surviving family (tracking down descendants, even establishing the fate of the ship Mana, is something van Tilburg does well) that she is not prepared to publish? The suggestion that Routledge's life and work were profoundly affected by schizophrenia is a major charge. It needs more substantiation than this book presents: what we have does not rise above gossip.
The book is also curiously thin, coming from an author with much experience of Easter Island archaeology, on what makes Routledge's Pacific work so special. There are many details here, and much useful material to inspire and aid further research. Too many minor errors, however, warn against taking it all on trust. Read and enjoy, but keep your critical faculties about you.
(For the record: Katherine Routledge was born on 11 March 1866 [not 11 August, though the author has corrected her previously published error over the year] and was married on 8 August [not 6 August] 1906 - she was over, not nearly, 40 on her wedding day. Nit picking? These dates are easy to check. The reader, though, cannot check facts that van Tilburg quotes from inaccessible or ungiven sources)
This is a biography that has been thoroughly researched; notes are referenced with interviews, Katherine's personal research and letters, Scoresby's papers and the author's endless sleuthing in all parts of the world that Katherine lived or visited.
The major part of the book is Katherine's stay on Easter Island. The author interweaves Katherine's personal and academic life with what is scientifically known about Easter Island archaeology and the people who inhabited the island then and now. Her words and thoughts are beautifully crafted and bring Katherine to life in a vivid and passionate manner. I could not put this book down and didn't want it to end. It is a story well told.
While Katherine Routledge may be relatively unknown to many, this fantastic book truly brings her to life. Van Tilburg is clearly an impartial by empathetic biographer, and the reader is moved to sympathize with Katherine's challenging life struggles. JoAnne Van Tilburg's prose creates a vivid portrait of the Island, its people and Katherine's place there.
Perhaps the author's greatest accomplishment is conveying to her reader how vital and extraordinary were Katherine Routledge's contributions to the present day archaeological record of the Island.
A MUST READ!
Most recent customer reviews
This book should top your list of Summer reading. I found that I had to keep reminding myself that this was a true story- it is amazing that all of this actually took place in... Read morePublished on June 11 2004
This is a fascinating account not only of Katherine Routledge's journey to Easter Island, but her journey through life. Read morePublished on May 25 2004 by Matthew Kline
This book is a MUST READ! It was very informative and well researched. I was impressed by the obvious depth and care the author took to portray her subjects in a fair and impartial... Read morePublished on May 10 2004
Among Stone Giants tells the story of the husband and wife who conducted the first archaeological expedition to Easter Island. Read morePublished on Aug. 22 2003 by Arthur
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