Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Book review: Jessie Benton Fremont: California Pioneer

This book is used as part of the Beautiful Feet California History Through Literature Guide. I used this primarily with my 4th grade son, with a 1st grader tagging along. Honestly, this book was a very difficult read, the hardest by far of the books used in the Beautiful Feet California History pack. My 4th grader is an accelerated learner, and he did okay, but he did not really enjoy this selection. I did not enjoy it either honestly. The vocabulary and syntax in the book were elegant, clearly a very literate and graceful writer. It was the actual plot that was uninteresting to us. The book covers almost the entirety of Jessie's life, yet I did not as a reader develop much empathy or interest in her fate. We are told time and time again in the book of her love of her life, her husband, so much so that this book could almost be considered a romance. The politics of the time, as they relate to our characters, are covered well, which is likely why this book is included in the history guide. We learn about topographical exploration of the west, slavery tensions in the government and among the states, the Mexican-American war, gold and mineral rights in California and the election of Abraham Lincoln through the historically-accurate interactions of the characters. Her children, her illnesses and her sadness are covered very dispassionately though, given she is the primary character. Perhaps this is because the author has her background in journalism rather than novels? The tone throughout is very dispassionate, which is disappointing as I think this was probably a very dynamic and interesting couple in history. Overall, I was extremely disappointed in this selection and will not read it again when I cover this time period later with my other children.

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