Summary and book reviews of The Land That Never Was by David Sinclair

The Land That Never Was

Sir Gregor MacGregor and the Most Audacious Fraud in History

by David Sinclair

The Land That Never Was by David Sinclair
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jan 2004, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2005, 384 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

The bizarre tale of a 19th century land swindle by 'Sir Gregor MacGregor', who conned hundreds of people into buying land in a country that didn't exist; a fact they didn't discover until they'd traveled half way round the world to Central America to claim their property.

Once upon a time, in the heart of Central America, there was a country named Poyais. It was exceptionally rich in natural resources, civilization, and culture and was ruled by the brave and enlightened Scottish soldier, Sir Gregor MacGregor, who became its ruler after his heroic exploits in the fight for South American independence. On a cold January morning in 1823, a group of Scottish immigrants looking for a new life set sail for this tropical Eden called Poyais.

The only catch was that it didn't exist.

Two months later the ship landed on the swamp-infested Mosquito Coast and the settlers realized that they had become the victims of one of the most elaborate hoaxes in history. The land they had been sold was nonexistent, the banknotes and guidebooks they carried with them were forgeries, their documents were worthless. Poyais was a fiction. The man responsible? Sir Gregor MacGregor. Who was this eccentric, scurrilous man? And why is he such a loveable rogue?

Chapter 1
THE PROMISED LAND

The new year of 1823 announced itself in violent fashion with a vicious storm that battered the east coast of Britain for a fortnight. Scotland suffered the worst of it, lashed by gales and snow that trapped people in their homes, brought mail deliveries to a halt, and made travelling by coach too dangerous even to think about. At sea, the weather was lethal. The American ship Elizabeth, out of Boston, running for shelter off the Scottish coast, sank with all hands, while just a single survivor was washed ashore from the Russian vessel Eolus when she went down. A local packet boat, the Betsy Crook, almost made it to the Firth of Forth, but was blown on to rocks and wrecked at the entrance to Crail harbour, below Fife Ness.

In the comparative calm of the port of Leith, on the Firth a mile from Edinburgh, Henry Crouch watched the weather with anxious eyes. He was the captain of the Kennersley Castle, an armed merchantman, due to sail on 14 January ...

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

Entertainment Weekly

Sinclair ably turns MacGregor's hoax into a sinister marvel.

Cleveland Plain Dealer - Daniel Dyer

Sinclair writes with brio and with the confidence born of intimate knowledge of his subject. Only when he attempts to display all the myriad and sometimes twisted threads of MacGregor's financial machinations does his prose become an attractive but confusing cat's cradle.

Library Journal

Although the book advertisement suggests that MacGregor was an eccentric rogue as lovable as he was scurrilous, Sinclair is not very successful--to this reviewer, at least--in making MacGregor and his land scam very lovable. Perhaps more useful is Sinclair's well-researched and clearly presented mini-portrait of the economic and social conditions of Britain in the 1820s and 1830s-conditions that made hoaxes such as MacGregor's imaginary Poyais seem attractive and persuasive.

Publishers Weekly

....the outrageous and tragic story of Poyais, a South American nation that, as the subtitle indicates, never actually existed....While the book suffers from a cumbersome foreword... Sinclair provides a fascinating glimpse into 19th-century conquest, warfare and utopian ideals.

Kirkus Reviews

The bizarre tale of a Central American land swindle that rivals for implausibility those country song lyrics about ocean-front property in Arizona. ....Sinclair does a masterful job explaining the intricacies of the swindle, though the absence of maps is regrettable. A top-notch survey of the vast dimensions of human greed.

Booklist

Starred Review. It's a yarn so remarkable that many wouldn't swallow it as fiction. Yet one devours Sinclair's limpid prose to find out whether and when MacGregor got his comeuppance...Hollywood couldn't create a more reprehensible, or more effective, scoundrel.

Reader Reviews

Graeme Foster

The Innocence of the Regency Period.
'The Land That Never Was', David Sinclair's astonishing account of the career of Gregor MacGregor, possibly the greatest swindler of his day, makes one incredulous at the credulity of those of another age. MacGregor was successful in convincing ...   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 The Land That Never Was, try these:

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!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Before We Sleep
    Before We Sleep
    by Jeffrey Lent
    Katey Snow, aged seventeen, leaves home one night. "There was a void within her and one that could ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Hermit
    by Thomas Rydahl
    If you can be comfortable with Scandinavian noir played out against the sun-drenched backdrop of ...
  • Book Jacket: The Radium Girls
    The Radium Girls
    by Kate Moore
    In 1915, Austrian-born Sabin von Sochocky developed a luminescent paint that used radium to create a...

Win this book!
Win News of the World

News of the World

A brilliant work of historical fiction that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.

Enter

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Weight of Ink
    by Rachel Kadish

    An intellectual, suspenseful, and entertaining page-turner.
    Reader Reviews

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T's S I Numbers

and be entered to win..

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

A richly layered novel of hearts broken seemingly beyond repair and then bound by a stunning act of human devotion.

About the book
Join the discussion!

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.