Sunday, May 03, 2009

Latest Donner book

Well, it's here! Daniel James Brown's The Indifferent Stars Above is now available. Mary Roach, in her favorable New York Times review, described it as "an ideal pairing of talent and material" and Brown as "a deft and ambitious storyteller, sifting through the copious and often conflicting details... to forge a trim, surging, minute by minute narrative." (Roach is no stranger to the Donner Party, having written about ghost hunting at Donner Memorial State Park in Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife.)

FWIW, I'm delighted with the book. While I care about all the members of the Donner Party, I've always been partial to the Graves family, and this is the first major book centered on them -- the Reeds and the Donners get most of the press. Dan works in a great deal of interesting information about the Graves family and about starvation, hypothermia, and other scientific aspects of the story. He also revises the Forlorn Hope's itinerary and gives a explanation as to how the snowshoers went astray. (I wish he'd included a map, but can't fault him for not doing so: finding decent cartography is a big problem for trail writers.)

Various reviews of Indifferent Stars have already appeared on the Internet. Some writers don't like the discursions, others do. Donner Party buffs will, I think, welcome the new information, new approach, and new things to think about.


Mac said...

Ah! I'm delighted to find your blog. I shall bookmark it, immediately. Followed you here from Making Light, to your website, then chasing down links from the website, of course.

Hope you hang around ML, if you're so inclined. It's a rather amazing community of commenters -- many of us obsessive pedants about obscure (and not so obscure) historical events or scientific pursuits. Heh. It's one of the few places I know, in fact, where "pedantic" is a wry observation of truth we occasionally make of each other, and not meant derogatorily.

And between your review and Jim Macdonald's, I'm now off to find a copy of this book.

Anonymous said...

Hi there,
I just finished the book and I absolutely loved it! It broke my heart. But I was very glad to have read it and I felt every bone chilling day exactly how they felt during their trek to California. I can't imagine how they endured it all. Thanks for your lovely blog.

Kristin Johnson said...

You're welcome -- it's nice to be appreciated!