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The National Book Award–winning epic chronicle of the creation of the Panama Canal, a first-rate drama of the bold and brilliant engineering feat that was filled with both tragedy and triumph, told by master historian David McCullough.

From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Truman, here is the national bestselling epic chronicle of the creation of the Panama Canal. In The Path Between the Seas, acclaimed historian David McCullough delivers a first-rate drama of the sweeping human undertaking that led to the creation of this grand enterprise.

The Path Between the Seas tells the story of the men and women who fought against all odds to fulfill the 400-year-old dream of constructing an aquatic passageway between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It is a story of astonishing engineering feats, tremendous medical accomplishments, political power plays, heroic successes, and tragic failures. Applying his remarkable gift for writing lucid, lively exposition, McCullough weaves the many strands of the momentous event into a comprehensive and captivating tale.

Winner of the National Book Award for history, the Francis Parkman Prize, the Samuel Eliot Morison Award, and the Cornelius Ryan Award (for the best book of the year on international affairs), The Path Between the Seas is a must-read for anyone interested in American history, the history of technology, international intrigue, and human drama.

Topics: Panama, Inspirational, Informative, Poignant, Theodore Roosevelt, Politics, Construction, and Maritime

Published: Simon & Schuster on Oct 27, 2001
ISBN: 9780743201377
List price: $12.99
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A must read for cruisers. Extremely detailed. read more
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I have yet to read a David McCullough book I didn't love. Yet, I seem to be approaching his catalogue in ascending order of weight (with the exception of the Johnstown Flood, which I have not yet read). It takes a few months of staring at a book this size and finishing up my lighter reading (avoidance) to finally tackle it, but as with The Great Bridge, I was glad I did. It took me not quite a month, I think, to finish The Path Between the Seas.The book was in three sections: the scouting and the years of the French project, the political wheeling-and-dealing and fomenting of Panamanian independence to bring the isthmus and the project into the American sphere of influence, and the years of the United States' directed work and completion of the canal.The first section was a little thick on back-room politics, but the adventure story of the scouting parties and the surveying, as well as the building of the railroad were phenomenal. The unbelievable misery, pestilence, and death during the French years were horrific but was a story very well told. The first section gets 4 stars.The second section seemed to drag on a bit for me, with lots of back-room politicking and intrigue. It was all interesting, it was all relevant, and all of it gave context to the rest of the story so that the other sections were made better by its inclusion. Still, it was a little bit of an effort to plough through. The second section gets 3 stars for pleasure, with another 1/2 added for relevance. 3.5 stars for this section.The final section was writing on par with The Great Bridge. Perhaps the absence of a language barrier, or simply that it's closer to home, made the story of the American years in the Canal Zone really come to life. The enormity of the work, the brilliance and character of the leaders (Gorgas, Stevens, Goethals, in particular) came leaping out in this section. What giants! While earlier sections had certainly portrayed T.R., Taft, DeLesseps and others as giant personalities and characters, the heroes in the final section were written in a way that truly made them read as great on a mythic scale. Though not necessarily a sign of good history to have mythic heroes as characters, this was a book of a project on a mythic scale, but its story was told through the people who were there, so it was in this section--the section where the characters came out as superhuman--that the mythic scale of the project hit hardest for me. The last section gets 5 stars +On balance, I enjoyed The Great Bridge better, but this was VERY well worth reading.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I keep waiting for a McCullough book to be less than a five star, but it just doesn't seem to happen, and it doesn't happen with this one. Path Between the Seas is another highly enjoyable read. I will say that it does start out a little bit slower than some McCullough's other books, but that may simply because he spends the first part of the book speaking about the French's attempt to build the canal and someone with more of an interest in French history may well enjoy it. The story does pick up at the end of this section when it goes into all the intrigue at the end of the canal project. The book is divided up into three parts. The first covers the French companies attempt to build the canal. The second covers when the Americans became very interested and then helped Panama win their independence. The third is the Americans start and completion of the canal. For someone who has not studied the canal before, it was the chance to learn a lot. I look forward TO reading more history books by McCulloughread more
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A must read for cruisers. Extremely detailed.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I have yet to read a David McCullough book I didn't love. Yet, I seem to be approaching his catalogue in ascending order of weight (with the exception of the Johnstown Flood, which I have not yet read). It takes a few months of staring at a book this size and finishing up my lighter reading (avoidance) to finally tackle it, but as with The Great Bridge, I was glad I did. It took me not quite a month, I think, to finish The Path Between the Seas.The book was in three sections: the scouting and the years of the French project, the political wheeling-and-dealing and fomenting of Panamanian independence to bring the isthmus and the project into the American sphere of influence, and the years of the United States' directed work and completion of the canal.The first section was a little thick on back-room politics, but the adventure story of the scouting parties and the surveying, as well as the building of the railroad were phenomenal. The unbelievable misery, pestilence, and death during the French years were horrific but was a story very well told. The first section gets 4 stars.The second section seemed to drag on a bit for me, with lots of back-room politicking and intrigue. It was all interesting, it was all relevant, and all of it gave context to the rest of the story so that the other sections were made better by its inclusion. Still, it was a little bit of an effort to plough through. The second section gets 3 stars for pleasure, with another 1/2 added for relevance. 3.5 stars for this section.The final section was writing on par with The Great Bridge. Perhaps the absence of a language barrier, or simply that it's closer to home, made the story of the American years in the Canal Zone really come to life. The enormity of the work, the brilliance and character of the leaders (Gorgas, Stevens, Goethals, in particular) came leaping out in this section. What giants! While earlier sections had certainly portrayed T.R., Taft, DeLesseps and others as giant personalities and characters, the heroes in the final section were written in a way that truly made them read as great on a mythic scale. Though not necessarily a sign of good history to have mythic heroes as characters, this was a book of a project on a mythic scale, but its story was told through the people who were there, so it was in this section--the section where the characters came out as superhuman--that the mythic scale of the project hit hardest for me. The last section gets 5 stars +On balance, I enjoyed The Great Bridge better, but this was VERY well worth reading.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I keep waiting for a McCullough book to be less than a five star, but it just doesn't seem to happen, and it doesn't happen with this one. Path Between the Seas is another highly enjoyable read. I will say that it does start out a little bit slower than some McCullough's other books, but that may simply because he spends the first part of the book speaking about the French's attempt to build the canal and someone with more of an interest in French history may well enjoy it. The story does pick up at the end of this section when it goes into all the intrigue at the end of the canal project. The book is divided up into three parts. The first covers the French companies attempt to build the canal. The second covers when the Americans became very interested and then helped Panama win their independence. The third is the Americans start and completion of the canal. For someone who has not studied the canal before, it was the chance to learn a lot. I look forward TO reading more history books by McCullough
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
David McCullough always does an excellent job. I learned so much and unlearned information that turned out to be myth.
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Themes: Exploration, engineering, trade, disease, politicsSetting: Columbia and the part which became Panama, France, Washington DCI listened to this one on audio at it was very absorbing. McCullough does his usual thorough job at exploring all the aspects of the canal. It wasn't quite up to the job he did on John Adams, but it was much better than The Great Bridge.Sorry for a rather perfunctory review, but I'm a little under the weather and I keep putting it off. To sum up, I learned so much with this book. Lots in here about the history of the canal, about the French and their involvement, none of which I knew before. Then we get on to the Americans and their entry into the area. I had heard some of this before, especially about the yellow fever, but it's covered in better contest here. Great stuff. Highly recommended at 4.5 stars. Now I would love to see the canal in person, especially to get a peek behind the scenes.Oh, and about the narration - great job. He got all the various accents - French, West Indies, Irish - just right, and kept the story interesting. The only thing I didn't like was a little unpleasant surprise - "This book was abridged by..." Dang! Now I want to read the unabridged book, but I will probably wait a bit. I'm counting it anyway, as it was 18 hours or something like that.
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Very interesting and well written.What I liked the most about it was the fact that it really illuminated the French history of the canal, something I didn't know much about.Also, it really made an effort to understand the personalities that were tied to the canal.Excellent book if your at all interested in big men doing big things.
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