Summary and book reviews of Over the Edge of the World by Laurence Bergreen

Over the Edge of the World

Magellan's Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe

by Laurence Bergreen

Over the Edge of the World
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Oct 2003, 480 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2004, 528 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

Magellan's unprecedented circumnavigation of the globe is the subject of this gripping story of heroism, discovery, and disaster.

Ferdinand Magellan's daring circumnavigation of the globe in the sixteenth century was a three-year odyssey filled with sex, violence, and amazing adventure. Now in Over the Edge of the World, acclaimed author Laurence Bergreen, interweaving a variety of candid, first-person accounts, some previously unavailable in English, brings to life this groundbreaking and majestic tale of discovery that changed many long-held views about the world and the way explorers would henceforth navigate its oceans.

In 1519 Magellan and his fleet set sail from Seville, Spain, to find a water route to the Spice Islands in Indonesia, where the most sought-after commodities — cloves, pepper, and nutmeg — flourished. Most important, they were looking for a passageway, a strait, through the great landmass of the Americas that would lead them to these fabled islands. Laurence Bergreen takes readers on board with Magellan and his crew as they explore, navigate, mutiny, suffer, and die across the seas. He also recounts the many unusual sexual practices the crew experienced, from orgies in Brazil to bizarre customs in the South Pacific. With a fleet of five ships and more than two hundred men, they had set out in search of the Spice Islands. Three years later they returned with an abundance of spices from their intended destination, but with just one ship carrying eighteen emaciated men. They suffered starvation, disease, and torture, and many died, including Magellan, who was violently killed in a fierce battle.

A man of great tenacity, cunning, and courage, Magellan was full of contradictions. He was both heroic and foolish, insightful yet blind, a visionary whose instincts outran his ideals. Ambitious to a fault and not above using torture and murder to maintain control of his ships and sailors, he survived innumerable natural hazards in addition to several violent mutinies aboard his own fleet — and it took no less than the massed forces of fifteen hundred men to kill him.

This is the first time in nearly half a century that anyone has attempted to narrate the complete story of Magellan's unprecedented circumnavigation of the globe — to tell this truly gripping and profoundly important story of heroism, discovery, and disaster. A voyage into history, a tour of the world emerging from the Middle Ages into the Renaissance, an anthropological account of tribes, languages, and customs unknown to Europeans, and a chronicle of a desperate grab for commercial and political power, Over the Edge of the World is a captivating tale that rivals the most exciting thriller fiction.

Chapter One
The Quest

"He holds him with his skinny hand,
"There was a ship," quoth he.
"Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"
"Eftsoons his hand dropt he.


On June 7, 1494, Pope Alexander VI divided the world in half, bestowing the western portion on Spain, and the eastern on Portugal.

Matters might have turned out differently if the Pontiff had not been a Spaniard — Rodrigo de Borja, born near Valencia — but he was. A lawyer by training, he assumed the Borgia name when his maternal uncle, Alfonso Borgia, began his brief reign as Pope Callistus III. As his lineage suggests, Alexander VI was a rather secular pope, among the wealthiest and most ambitious men in Europe, fond of his many mistresses and his illegitimate offspring, and endowed with sufficient energy and ability to indulge his worldly passions.

He brought the full weight of his authority to bear on the appeals of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, the "Catholic Monarchs" of Spain who had ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

Media Reviews

Booklist - Gavin Quinn

... a well-rounded story of Magellan, not just that of the romanticized hero but also that of the explorer's darker side. Fascinating reading for history buffs, and a great story that rivals any seagoing adventure.

Publishers Weekly

[A] powerful tale of adventure with a strong presence and rich detail.

Library Journal

A revisionist view—and also a cracking good tale.

Kirkus Reviews - Suzanne Gluck

A vivid account of Magellan’s star-crossed voyage around the world nearly five centuries ago. Very nicely written through and through, and a pleasure for students of world exploration.

Reader Reviews

Britt

Page Turner
Very well written. Begreen knows what he's talking about and you can tell with the great detail and arrangement of facts. Chapters are brought to their conclusion on how they are important and what everything means at their end. Highly recommended.   Read More

Bobby D.

Does a history book have this much right to be a fun page-turner? Yes, and Laurence Bergreen exceeds to great story telling, marvelous adventure, creating a just plain enjoyable read. Taken either as history or read like a novel this is an amazingly ...   Read More

Patsy Bailey

I thoroughly enjoyed this book for several reasons. It is well written; that is, it keeps the reader's attention. It is exciting and at the same time factual and historical. I gained a new appreciation for the early explorers. Not only were they ...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked Over the Edge of the World, try these:

  • Landfalls jacket

    Landfalls

    by Naomi J. Williams

    Published 2015

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    By turns elegiac, profound, and comic, Landfalls reinvents the maritime adventure novel for the twenty-first century.

  • Pirate Hunters jacket

    Pirate Hunters

    by Robert Kurson

    Published 2016

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    Fast-paced and filled with suspense, fascinating characters, history, and adventure, Pirate Hunters is an unputdownable story that goes deep to discover truths and souls long believed lost.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member


Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

One-Month Free Membership

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Here I Am
    Here I Am
    by Jonathan Safran Foer
    With almost all the accoutrements of upper middle-class suburban life, Julia and Jacob Bloch fit the...
  • Book Jacket: Harmony
    Harmony
    by Carolyn Parkhurst
    In previous novels such as The Dogs of Babel and Lost and Found, Carolyn Parkhurst has shown herself...
  • Book Jacket: Commonwealth
    Commonwealth
    by Ann Patchett
    Opening Ann Patchett's novel Commonwealth about two semi-functional mid-late 20th Century ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Darling Days
    by iO Tillett Wright

    A devastatingly powerful memoir of one young woman's extraordinary coming of age.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Tea Planter's Wife
    by Dinah Jefferies

    An utterly engrossing, compulsive page-turner set in 1920s Ceylon.

    Read Member Reviews

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
Sweet Caress
by William Boyd

William Boyd's Sweet Caress captures an entire lifetime unforgettably within its pages. It captivates.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Blood at the Root

Blood at the Root

"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

D C Y C Before T A H

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
X

Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!



Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.