Friday, August 18, 2006

Letters from Yellowstone by Diane Smith

I now see for myself what my father has maintained all along to be true. Native people may live in a different world from ours, but it is not an inferior one. I admit that I have been quick to condemn Joseph for what I have perceived to be his primitive beliefs, but he and his wife are not savages, as their detractors would have us believe . Or at least they are no more savage in their world than we are in ours.
Alexandria Bartram writes about sheltering from a storm in a tipi with the wife and children of a Crow Indian who has accompanied their expedition.

From the cover: "In the spring of 1898, A.E. (Alexandria) Bartram - a feisty young woman with a love for botany - is invited to join a field study to Yellowstone National Park. Its leader, a mild-mannered professor from Montana mistakenly assumes she is a man, and is less than pleased to discover the truth. Once the scientists overcome the shock of having a woman on their team, they forge ahead on a summer of adventure, forming an enlightening web of relationships as they move from Mammoth Hot Springs to a camp high in the backcountry. But as they make their way collecting amid Yellowstone’s pristine beauty - threatened even a century ago by misguided tourism - the group is splintered by differing views on science, nature, and economics.

This delightful epistolary novel captures an ever-fascinating era and charts one woman’s dramatic journey to a greater understanding of herself and her place in the world."

My thoughts: I loved this book! The characters were
believable, well-rounded individuals that I really cared about, the writing was convincing in style and historical detail and each character had a natural, easily distinguishable voice. I had tears in my eyes toward the end, as they were breaking camp. There are quiet moments during which the characters describe botanical life or scenery as well as some tense action. The death of one character's beloved pet had me grieving right along with him and at other moments I smiled and a couple of times laughed out loud. Excellent historical fiction.


Letters from Yellowstone was copyrighted in 1999 and I was hoping to find more by this author but haven't located anything at all. What a disappointment! Because the dominant protagonists frequently refer to the expedition of Lewis and Clark, I'm now reading The Essential Lewis and Clark, edited by Landon Y. Jones.

And, in other thoughts, I hope this blog hasn't become terribly dull along with its recent infrequency of posts. My eldest son was, shall we say, not so "involved" in high school as the youngster who has just begun 9th grade. I am stunned at how little time I have to myself, these days. My reading time has not only been shot to hell by all the taxiing; but, also, it's been so darned hot that when I'm sitting by the pool during swim team practice or in the car while waiting for band to end (with an umbrella propped up on my side-view mirror, as there are only two shady spots and I've opted to create my own shade rather than fight for a spot under one of the trees), I can't concentrate long enough to get anywhere on my reading.

Note to God or Mother Nature (or, maybe Tony the weather guy, if he has any influence): Send cool weather soon!!

Roasting Bookfool


  1. Ah, Nancy. Whenever you can find time to read & post is good enough for me. I remember those days of shuttling my daughter to and fro (soccer, cheerleading & friends' homes - we lived on an acreage). I was thrilled and terrified when she could finally drive herself. So, do what you can and don't worry about us. We're not going anywhere (and maybe I'll get more reading done since I won't have as many blog posts to read!).

    I have Letters from Yellowstone in my stacks. It was in my carry-on when we went to Virginia last month, but I opted for In Cold Blood instead. I'll get to it eventually.

    Have a restful weekend. Hope it cools off some. We just had a torrential downpour for about half an hour! Feels more like May than August.

  2. Aw, Les, you're too sweet. :)

    I hope you like Letters to Yellowstone as much as I did. It was not a book that I stayed up all night to finish, but it was the kind that I knew I was going to enjoy escaping into every time I had a chance (and the concentration level) to read.

    Thanks, I could use a restful weekend. We have to meet the eldest to give him his textbooks, tomorrow. I'm not sure why hubby had them shipped to our address, but maybe I'll get some catch-up time on Sunday. Fingers crossed. Hope you have a great weekend!

  3. I hadn't heard of this book, but your review is very convincing. It's go on my TBR list.

  4. Booklogged,

    I'm always nervous when people read a book based on my enthusiastic recommendation because . . . well, ya never know. We all have unique taste. I hope you enjoy it!!!

  5. I added it to my list as well. Sounds interesting!

  6. Hi Marg! Oh, boy, a new "face". I hope you enjoy Letters to Yellowstone. I called my mom and told her all about it, this weekend, and she wants my copy. She's a history buff and historical fiction nut; I got her all excited. LOL

  7. Although it has been a while since the last post, I thought I would add my two cents...

    I just finished Letters From Yellowstone, by Diane Smith and was pleasantly surprised to have enjoyed it immensely. This book was the first pick of our newly formed book club. My experience has been that book clubs like to pick “important” novels that, although I will admit to being glad to have read (or at least finished), I rarely would have chosen for myself. I, like others, am also a mom/teacher/chauffeur/cook/maid, etc. and therefore choose books that are fast-paced, enjoyable, entertaining fluff, as my professors used to say.

    Letters was different. Slower paced~~~but not crawling~~~I felt as if I were right there with Alex, looking over her shoulder on her excursion. Having recently visited Yellowstone myself for the first time, I was thrilled that Diane Smith was able to capture the feelings of wonder upon seeing the raw beauty of our Earth’s creation.

    I appreciate how Ms. Smith allowed Alex’s character to grow into her understanding of her life, through observation and opening herself up to listening to others view points. I also was pleased that Ms. Smith didn’t “tidy up” at the end of the novel and have Alex join Professor Merriam in the happily-ever tradition. While I was sad to see the novel close, I value the “life as a journey” metaphor that implies that all will continue on in their pursuits.


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