Book Review by Frank Ioele
Christopher who? Did you know that Christopher Columbus never used the alias Columbus in his lifetime? He used Columbo in Genoa, Colon in Portugal, Colomo in Aragon and Colon in Spain. According to the historical fiction novel, “1492” by Newton Frohlich, Columbus changed his name each time he moved in order to fit in and not be noticed because in reality, he was a new Christian whose grandparents were Jews.
The novel gives us a Columbus who lives in a maelstrom of religious persecution, an Arab stranglehold on Europe’s economy and financial woe.
All of the major characters really existed and the basic framework of events did occur. What is made up by Frohlich are the conversations that take place between the participants as well as some minor characters.
Mr. Frohlich spent eight years researching and writing “1492” with trips to Spain, Italy, New York and Jerusalem. Original source material was obtained from the Biblioteca Colombine in Seville, the Monastery of La Rabida in Palos and the Museo Navale in Genoa-Pagli and included Columbus’ personal textbooks, letters and correspondence with his bank.
“1492” begins with the Arab siege of Spain beginning to crumble under the onslaught of Queen Isabella’s armies. We get a very interesting view of the Muslim world through the eyes of Prince Boabdil and his family.
The disintegration of the Arab grip upon Spain is woven throughout the novel.
Isabella is quickly thrust upon the stage and it is obvious that despite her diminutive size, she is the power behind the throne of Spain.
King Ferdinand comes across as a playboy who would rather hunt and whore than govern.
Finally, we are introduced to Christopher Columbus who, while captain of vessels trading with African nations, was longing to find a westerly route to the riches of the East.
The narrative gives us an account of Columbus’ marriage to Filipa, his children, his brother and his Jewish mistress, Beatriz. The events of his life take place as he shuttles back and forth between Portugal and Spain trying to interest a sovereign in backing his expedition.
The overreaching theme, however, is the Spanish Inquisition led by Tomas Torquemada, a Jew! Its shadow threatens most of Frolich’s characters including Columbus.
The heartbreaking capture, imprisonment, torture, trial and burning at the stake of the de Susan family is vividly portrayed. Source material for these scenes were actual trial transcripts unearthed by Professor Haim Beinart. According to the novel,
Isabella used the Inquisition to fund her campaign against the Arabs who had overrun Spain for 700 years.
As one of the monks in the narrative says, “The Muslim attitude towards the rest of the world is written in the Koran. Islam conquers. Should it later be pushed back, it counterattacks, claiming the land was Islam’s from the beginning of time. By such logic, it has succeeded in conquering a great portion of the known world. The conquest stops here.”
The parallel with today’s world is unmistakable! You might say history is trying to repeat itself.
The novel ends with two families in ruin, Christopher Columbus embarking on his fateful journey westward to the East and Queen Isabella expelling the Jews from Spain-one hit and two errors!
If you can recall your grade school world history, we didn’t learn very much about Columbus and his discovery of America. All I can recall is that he was an Italian who sailed under the flag of Spain, that Queen Isabella hocked her jewels to provide the money for his journey and that he didn’t really land on the actual continent of North America.
Well, Frohlich’s novel, “1492” will really put everything in perspective and give you such an interesting back story as to make you really feel that you are there! It is clearly and concisely written with interesting characters who live, love and fight across a very wide canvas.
The action is quick and relentless forcing one to read on and on and wishing it could have gone on to a second book about Columbus’ voyage and discoveries in the New World.
About the Author:
Newton Frohlich is the award-winning author of The Shakespeare Mask: A Novel, as well as 1492: A Novel of Christopher Columbus, the Spanish Inquisition & a World at the Turning Point and Making the Best of It: A Common-Sense Guide to Negotiating a Divorce. A former lawyer in Washington, D.C., he devoted eight years to the research and writing of 1492. He has lived in Washington, D.C., the south of France, and Israel and now makes his home on Cape Codwith his wife, Martha, a musicologist.
Connect with Newton Frohlich on Goodreads and at http://newtonfrohlich.com/.
1492: A Novel of Christopher Columbus, the Spanish Inquisition & a World at the Turning Point is currently available on Amazon.