Top positive review
Folks, this isn't a novel!
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on November 24, 2021
I become so frustrated when people swoop in and give bad reviews of a work of scholarly nonfiction and bash it because it's not the work of fiction they thought it was (their mistake); it has "too many details;" or it has "too many characters."
First of all, details are highly valued in a work of nonfiction. Secondly, these people are not "characters." They are actual figures who actually lived, and this is a very comprehensive account of the events they actually endured. The author's choice of choosing the viewpoint of Sarah Graves Fosdick is not some flair of a flip of a fiction pen; it is merely a way of choosing one of many individuals involved in this tragedy and creating a human personalization. Seeing some of the events through the lens of a young, newly married woman, the reader is able to benefit from the author's copious research into everything from birth control methods of the time to the societal standards of the day. As an appreciator of nonfiction, particularly concerning American history, I enjoy the inclusion of these kinds of layers and feel that they do much to contextualize not just one event or series of events, but the surrounding times that formed the events and the people who lived through them.
The subject matter isn't for everyone. We are talking about the Donner Party here. This is a very famous story of American westward expansion, possibly for the wrong reasons. But if a reader has the barest grasp of why the Donner Party is famous, and gets in and becomes repulsed by the inclusion of certain historical facts, then I am not sure why they chose to read this book in the first place, and that's on the reader, not the writer. If you've never heard of the Donner Party, then I'd suggest doing a bit of homework first. Do some events get gross and repellent to our sensibilities? Yes. Is this American history that actually happened? Also yes.
As an avid user of reviews (I never buy a book without reading reviews first), please, please, dear reader, at the very least understand the genre of the book you've chosen. I can't imagine giving a book a one-star review because I thought it was a novel and it wasn't, and I didn't like that. I don't believe that my personal subjectivity, particularly if I'm the one who's made the mistake, ought to drag a work down.
If you are actually interested in this aspect of history, and you understand what you're getting into, and have a firm grasp on the fact that this is scholarly NONfiction, not historical fiction, I'd highly recommend this book, and indeed I've read it more than once.