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For me this book was too heavy on the myth, the romance and the supernatural. The letters and journal entries were confusing and nonlinear. If you decide on giving the book a try it is imperative to pay close attention to the dates announced with each narrator change. If you don't you will find the whole thing hard to follow as the story jumps around through time.
I would have liked more history and a tighter story line. For example, things like the lack of attention and detail about the actualities of the "row boat" the men used on the exploration of the river weakened the story. The fact that the men in reality would have portaged thousands of pounds of gear, lined (dragged by ropes) what was most likely a Columbia boat along miles of icy river banks and then did not freeze to death when submerged "to the neck" in the "frozen" water--just to mention three things missing from the story--was disappointing. I understand that Columbia boats--used during the time of this story--in the Pacific Northwest were lighter and easier to portage than the York boats of central and eastern Canada--but still they weighed thousands of pounds loaded. This would have been a terrible job--but all we hear is that the men carried their packs???
For me, there were too many missed opportunities for accuracy and historic detail that mattered to the story being told. Only for readers who love epistolary romance novels heavy on supernatural myths.
33 of 38 people found this review helpful
Expository novel in alternating voices: The journals of Colonel Allen Forrester, on an expedition to explore an uncharted region in Alaska in the late 1800's, and his wife Sophie, who wishes to be with him but remains behind in the army barracks of Vancouver, Washington, pregnant; in between these alternating journal entries are the modern day letters between Forrester's descendent and a museum curator in Alaska. Expository novel + magical realism (Ivey incorporates many Alaskan Native myths into the narrative) probably makes it something not everyone will like, but I loved it.
The audiobook was a good production, each character having their own narrator. [I think the thing that bothered me with some audiobook narrations with male narrators is when they voice female characters it reminds me of the "Kids in the Hall" when they do skits with female characters.] But the actual book is worth checking out, as it has maps & (photoshopped) photos and old-style advertisements spread about.
I'm starting to read a lot of these novels with the eye of an aspiring writer, and with this novel, it has to be incredible the amount of research Ivey put into it, even as an Alaskan. Early Alaskan history, expedition journals, both Russian & American, early photography, native lives & myths, the geography...mid-1800 military life...ornithology...Mindboggling.
4 of 5 people found this review helpful