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Hazel

Adventures In The Rocky Mountains

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This was the novella sent to me by Penguin for their Blog-a-Classic promotion. I was disappointed I got a travel book, as I am not really a 'travel' type of person, and this book didn't change that.

 

Isabella Bird in 1873 sets off the visit Estes Park in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. The book is a collection of her letters back to her sister Henrietta, detailing her adventures and the people she meets on the way. Curiously, Penguin didn't see fit to issue the book in epistolary form, but rather a prose narrative, with chapters only breaking as per the letters. I think it suffers from that - as in the issued form it just reads as one long story about "I...I...I". And references to 'letter' just seem awkward and odd.

 

Anyhow, onto the substance. I found it odd that for Bird to be described as an "Intrepid traveller" (the back blurb), that so often she judges immediately on appearances and displays some rather narrow points of view-

 

"The Americans will never solve the Indian problem till the Indian is extinct"

 

"the greatest Indian exterminator on the Frontier"

 

But we have to bear in mind the period and society from which Ms Bird writes. I guess I just found it jarring that and "intrepid" female would display such views. At several points she makes it clear what she finds "good company" - "high-minded American couple, Mr and Mrs Dewey, people whose character, culture and society I should value anywhere".

 

One description particularly stood out against a fairly monotonous narrative, in which she describes ice-fishing -

 

"looking through the ice-hole in the track of a sun-beam, you see a mass of tails, silver fins, bright eyes, and crimson spots, a perfect shoal of fish, and truly beautiful the crimson-spotted creatures look, lying still and dead on the blue ice under the sunshine".

 

Otherwise, I found this novella curiously lacking in real adventure. Sure Bird did a lot of things that I will probably never get to experience but she and this issue sucked the life out of the tale.

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