Paris, 1818. Post-Napoleon, everything’s sliding back into the old ways, including total incompetence of noble appointees. The Medusa, part of a small flotilla of boats sent from France to re-assert control over Senegal, founders on a reef off West Coast Africa due to the blithe incompetence of a well-connected pilot. Most of the crew is set adrift on a jury-rigged raft, and for harrowing days on the Atlantic searches in vain for rescue. Scandalized and disgusted by the French court’s indifference, artist Theodore Gericault decides to create a massive oil painting of the peak moment of the ordeal. His depiction of the hopeful, dying mariners on their disintegrating raft is an icon, which you'll at once recognize. The author has created scenes in Gericault’s life from sublime to grisly, making this book a must-read for historical novel enthusiasts. If only the ending had been a bit stronger. It’s a 4. Great for a book club.