I started The Giant and How He Humbugged America quite a while ago but set it aside to read some other things; I finally finished it last night, and I’m still basking in the glow of bringing a long project to completion! (Which is silly, really–it’s got less than a hundred pages. But still.)
I’ve read at least five other Jim Murphy books, including two Newberys. I’m in a stage of life where adult nonfiction requires more time and focus than I’ve got, and so intermediate nonfiction affords me the opportunity to indulge my passion for history in a way that seems, you know, possible. When I grabbed this one from the library I knew very little about the topic, other than that the Cardiff Giant was a thing–and a hoax of a thing. Interestingly, I think I enjoyed this somewhat less than Murphy’s others (at least the ones I’ve read) for precisely that reason. In general, I like reading about people, and the Cardiff Giant being a ‘thing’ meant fewer details about people (not to mention that what details there were to be had are close to 150 years old!). It’s still a fascinating story, however, and a bit mind blowing as well. What kind of person puts that kind of time, money, and planning into such a hoax?
One of the best features of Murphy’s book is how he ends it, in my opinion; instead of leaving the Giant to be an isolated incident in his readers’ minds, he takes us through a history of hoaxes and frauds that continues into the 21st century. Historical context and relevancy are invaluable in a good piece of nonfiction, and Jim Murphy does a fine job of both. If the idea of an elaborately planned 19th century hoax interests you, try this one; if not, check out his other titles. You’re bound to find a few that grab your attention.