2007: 111. The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton

“I have made up my mind to begin my account upon the first occasion when I truly knew where things stood with me, that is, that afternoon of the day my father, Arthur Harkness, was taken to the Quincy graveyard and buried between my mother, Cora Mary Harkness, and his first wife, Ella Harkness.”

The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton, Jane Smiley

Oh man, this novel (not all true, despite the title) was a slog.  I started this who knows how long ago* as a commuting book, and found it so boring that I put it down (which I never do, because cheating, right?) for a long period of time, and finally finished it in total dribs and drabs.  It was fine, it was just dull.  It’s the story of bleeding Kansas, told through the eyes of a young woman from Illinois, who marries an abolitionist from Massachusetts, and goes to help make Kansas free.  Terrible things happen (as terrible things did happen then), and if you can hack it, you can learn a bit about what it was like to live there, and how turbulent things were.  But the book is slow and dense and ponderous, and even I (who love historical fiction! who reads boring books!) had a hard time getting to the end.  It was interesting to read, so soon after Uncle Tom’s Cabin - this book definitely plays on Stowe** in many ways, but it doesn’t make me want to run out and read any more Smiley.


Recommended for:  People who think there should be more non-Oz books about Kansas; people who want to read a slow boringish book about that time period.


*Best I can figure it was around April! Yikes!

** Plus it talks a lot about Catherine Beecher, so fun to keep it in the family!


Date/Place Completed: 7/19/07; D.C.

Categories:  Fiction, Commuting Book (well, sort of!) 

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017