Mini-Review - The Moor's Account by Laila Lalamy
The Moor's Account
by Laila Lalamy, 2014, 336pp
TLDR: 4.5 our of 5 for a well written, rousing, and thought-provoking historical adventure.
In 1537, Alvar Nunez Cabesa de Vaca wrote an account of the Narvaez Expedition to La Florida, of which he was the treasurer. The expedition of some 300 men was lost, and there were only four survivors, including Cabeza and two other Hidalgos. In his account, Cabeza wrote: "The fourth is Estevanico, an Arab Negro from Azamor." And that's all we know about the Moor. The Moor's Account is a work of fiction that recreates the journey from the perspective of Estevanico.
This work reads very much like an authentic account of exploration, and I quite enjoyed Lalamy's take on the character of Estevanico. In the novel, Estevanico reflects on his current condition as a slave (he sold himself into slavery to atone for his role in selling slaves on the market in his youth) and, as an outsider, on the conditions of first contact with the natives by the Spanish. The expedition itself undergoes much hardship, including mutiny, desertion, cannibalism, disease, native attacks, and more. Estevanico finds himself first a slave trader, then a slave of a Spanish merchant, then a slave of a Spanish explorer, then a slave of Indians, then a free man under the Indians, then a slave again in Tenochtitlan, and finally finds freedom with the natives of northern Mexico, but not before acknowledging that freedom for these natives will not last much longer.
4.5 out of 5. Recommended to fans of the age of exploration, fictional biographies, and historical novels in general. The book was short-listed for a Pulitzer Prize.