Litercurious Book Review

TitleThe End of The River
AuthorSimon Winchester OBE
PublisherScribd (Scribd Original)
ISBN #9781094404424


Simon Winchester was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE), find out more about him here.


Anyone interested in the Mississippi river and the attempts to control it.


The End of The River centers upon the hydrological and historic ebb and flow of the greatest river in America’s South, the Mississippi. It focuses on a short stretch of the river near the Louisiana border. It describes the importance and influence of the varied control mechanisms that line the course of the river’s flow. It further explains the factors that over time have adversely affected the river’s natural meandering patters and the problems arising out of those changes.

Winchester calls into question the human influences, particularly those of the United States Corps of Engineers who are the guardians of the river. He challenges the effectiveness of every attempt to control the river citing the Great Flood of the Mississippi in 1927 and the futile attempts to prevent the following flood.

Of particular concern to Winchester are the actions of Captain Shreve and his hubris in carving a canal from the Mississippi across to Atchafalaya. Whilst it made the Atchafalaya easier to navigate, it raises concerns over the sheer volume of water ‘stolen’ from the Mississippi. He questions the ability of the Mississippi to continue its flow to the New Orleans delta due to the Atchafalaya diversion. More concerning is the potential and dire consequences of creating an interruption in the river’s ability to distribute the valuable life giving sedimentary elements from Nebraska to the deep South.

Winchester also identifies the increasing impact upon areas immediately abutting the Mississippi. He explains how human development around the river is impeding the ability of the land to siphon off excess water. This consecutively leads to increased water volume flowing directly into the river which results in greater levels of chaotic surges in the Mississippi. The combination of these influences leads to a never-ending war between the river seeking the path of least resistance and the United States Corps of Engineers trying to control it.

Winchester also briefly observes the huge cost of fighting this inevitable losing battle. He leaves us in no doubt that human geoengineering does not come cheap and its failure can cost lives and livelihoods.


The End of The River by Simon Winchester is a novelette created for Scribd. It is a substantial departure from Winchester’s other work and is closer to an in-depth magazine piece than a booklet. The work holds true to the high standard we have come to expect from Simon Winchester.

I wanted to love it, however the subject was neither compelling nor memorable. It lost something in its brevity. I felt it just wasn’t as satisfying as I had come to expect from Winchester’s written work. It wasn’t so detrimental that I would avoid reading any more Simon Winchester books, however I would think twice if they were in this format.

Rating: 2 out of 5.


I would like to thank Simon Winchester, NetGalley, and Scribd Originals for affording me the opportunity to review The End of The River.

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