Saturday, July 18, 2009

Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati

Book description from the publisher:

"Weaving a tapestry of fact and fiction, Sara Donati's epic novel sweeps us into another time and place...and into a breathtaking story of love and survival in a land of savage beauty.

It is December of 1792. Elizabeth Middleton leaves her comfortable English estate to join her family in a remote New York mountain village. It is a place unlike any she has ever experienced. And she meets a man unlike any she has ever encountered -- a white man dressed like a Native American: Nathaniel Bonner, known to the Mohawk people as Between-Two-Lives. Determined to provide schooling for all the children of the village, Elizabeth soon finds herself locked in conflict with the local slave owners as well as with her own family. Interweaving the fate of the Mohawk Nation with the destiny of two lovers, Sara Donati's compelling novel creates a complex, profound, passionate portrait of an emerging America."

My thoughts:

I love big, fat historical sagas and Into the Wilderness transports the reader to the beauty and wilderness of America in 1792. Sara Donati's story includes characters from The Last of the Mohicans, and Outlander fans will find cameo appearances of some beloved characters, as well. She writes in a very straightforward style, easily blending historical details and the struggles of the relationship between two people from very different worlds. It is interesting that Donati chose to make her heroine an older woman (Elizabeth is 29 years old at the start of the novel), but she sometimes comes across as a much younger girl. However, she is an indepedent person with a committment to her ideals and right from the start establishes her own identity. There is obvious opposition to the relationship between Elizabeth and Nathaniel, and you can't help but cheer them on in the face of prejudice and adversity.

A very enjoyable read, but there is a point I would like to make: there are many reviews and references that compare Diana Gabaldon's writing to this novel. While Gabaldon is quoted on the cover and her characters do have a small part in the story, there really is no comparison. Diana's writing is much more complex and multi-layered with elements of many different genres; Sara Donati's writing is well researched and she is a talented storyteller, but the two styles are distinctly different. A good read for those who enjoy early American history.


Title: Into the Wilderness
Author: Sara Donati
Publisher: Bantam Dell
876 pages
genre: historical fiction

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