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The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton (1998)

by Jane Smiley

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1,2422211,997 (3.53)45
See the difference, read #1 bestselling author Jane Smiley in Large Print * About Large Print All Random House Large Print editions are published in a 16-point typeface Six years after her Pulitzer Prize-winning best-seller,A Thousand Acres,and three years after her witty, acclaimed, and best-selling novel of academe,Moo,Jane Smiley once again demonstrates her extraordinary range and brilliance. Her new novel, set in the 1850s, speaks to us in a splendidly quirky voice--the strong, wry, no-nonsense voice of Lidie Harkness of Quincy, Illinois, a young woman of courage, good sense, and good heart. It carries us into an America so violently torn apart by the question of slavery that it makes our current political battlegrounds seem a peaceable kingdom. Lidie is hard to scare. She is almost shockingly alive--a tall, plain girl who rides and shoots and speaks her mind, and whose straightforward ways paradoxically amount to a kind of glamour. We see her at twenty, making a good marriage--to Thomas Newton, a steady, sweet-tempered Yankee who passes through her hometown on a dangerous mission. He belongs to a group of rashly brave New England abolitionists who dedicate themselves to settling the Kansas Territory with like-minded folk to ensure its entering the Union as a Free State. Lidie packs up and goes with him. And the novel races alongside them into the Territory, into the maelstrom of "Bloody Kansas," where slaveholding Missourians constantly and viciously clash with Free Staters, where wandering youths kill you as soon as look at you--where Lidie becomes even more fervently abolitionist than her husband as the young couple again and again barely escape entrapment in webs of atrocity on both sides of the great question. And when, suddenly, cold-blooded murder invades her own intimate circle, Lidie doesn't falter. She cuts off her hair, disguises herself as a boy, and rides into Missouri in search of the killers--a woman in a fiercely male world, an abolitionist spy in slave territory. On the run, her life threatened, her wits sharpened, she takes on yet another identity--and, in the very midst of her masquerade, discovers herself. Lidie grows increasingly important to us as we follow her travels and adventures on the feverish eve of the War Between the States. With its crackling portrayal of a totally individual and wonderfully articulate woman, its storytelling drive, and its powerful recapturing of an almost forgotten part of the American story, this is Jane Smiley at her enthralling and enriching best. From the Trade Paperback edition.… (more)
  1. 00
    The Colour by Rose Tremain (wandering_star)
    wandering_star: Both these books focus on pioneer women, whose previous lives have done nothing to prepare them for the new difficulties and tasks which face them, and how they match up to their new life.
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» See also 45 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
One of the dullest books I’ve ever forced myself to finish. ( )
  fountainoverflows | Jan 1, 2020 |
Overall, a good read! - I'd recommend it to Jane Smiley fans who like her wide range of novels. Good narrative description of an historical context that I was not aware of. The book started a bit slow, but the reader gradually became interested in the Lidie and what she was in the midst of..#JaneSmiley ( )
  JosephKing6602 | Sep 8, 2016 |
The shortcoming of the audio book: Lidie knows how to pronounce "pince-nez" but not "Derbyshire." Which I guess might fit the character and her times, though if you Americanize the pronunciation of the county wouldn't you Americanize that of the spectacles?

This was a fine entertainment. Some bits dragged more than is ideal, but in audio, that doesn't bother me as much as in print.

I enjoy Jane Smiley almost always. Age of Grief didn't work for me, but its format -- three novellas -- worked against it as much as the novellas' content (misery).

Is it perverse of me that Greenlanders and Moo rank ahead of A Thousand Acres? I'm not sure whether this would be third or fourth, but "fourth" isn't so bad considering she's one of my favorite authors. I've read six of her books (and of them, Age of Grief ranks about eleventh) and I next look forward to Horse Heaven, which she said in 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel was her own favorite to write.

A reviewer on Amazon said this was taught in U.S. history classes. That makes a lot of sense, because it's a great perspective on what is, for me, an obscure element in the lead-up to the Civil War. Missouri Compromise, okay, but after that the fate of Kansas and Missouri is a blank.
  ljhliesl | Jun 1, 2013 |
I love books that give me a new perspective on history, compelling characters, and viewpoints that shift and show nuances throughout the story. Terrific. Appreciate the careful historical research that went into this (Kansas Territory just prior to the Civil War, with the race issue building) and that the story is told from the viewpoint of a character without a concrete point of view, who changes as she lives through events. A really good read -- I didn't want the book to end. ( )
  bjellis | Dec 30, 2012 |
I was fascinated by this account of a spirited young women's trek through the events of the Border War period in Kansas and Missouri. Lidie escapes the oppressive oversight of her family by marrying a man who is heading out to the Kansas territory. Lidie is excited about her new life, especially since she becomes genuinely fond of her new husband, but when they arrive in Kansas they find hardship after hardship awaiting them. Still, Lidie enjoys the peaceful times on their homestead. But when when the border ruffians attack the settlers, Lidie finds herself heartbroken. Soon she begins an altogether different journey.
It took a while for me to get into this, but after the first 50 pages I got sucked it it was really fascinating. Being in the same geographic location added to my enjoyment of the story, the vivid scenes of life in Lawrence during the 1800's seemed so real. The early settlers to our state really went through a lot! Lidie is certainly a compelling character, I could not believe how much she endured and how she just kept going. It made for an enjoyable discussion at our book group. I would suggest this book to anyone who enjoys well though out historical fiction and/or fiction that explores how ideals affect the life of the individual. ( )
  debs4jc | Dec 19, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
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I have made up my mind to begin my account upon the first occasion when I truly knew where things stood with me, that is, that afternoon of the day my father, Arthur Harkness, was taken to the Quincy graveyard and buried with my mother, Cora Mary Harkness, and his first wife, Ella Harkness.
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See the difference, read #1 bestselling author Jane Smiley in Large Print * About Large Print All Random House Large Print editions are published in a 16-point typeface Six years after her Pulitzer Prize-winning best-seller,A Thousand Acres,and three years after her witty, acclaimed, and best-selling novel of academe,Moo,Jane Smiley once again demonstrates her extraordinary range and brilliance. Her new novel, set in the 1850s, speaks to us in a splendidly quirky voice--the strong, wry, no-nonsense voice of Lidie Harkness of Quincy, Illinois, a young woman of courage, good sense, and good heart. It carries us into an America so violently torn apart by the question of slavery that it makes our current political battlegrounds seem a peaceable kingdom. Lidie is hard to scare. She is almost shockingly alive--a tall, plain girl who rides and shoots and speaks her mind, and whose straightforward ways paradoxically amount to a kind of glamour. We see her at twenty, making a good marriage--to Thomas Newton, a steady, sweet-tempered Yankee who passes through her hometown on a dangerous mission. He belongs to a group of rashly brave New England abolitionists who dedicate themselves to settling the Kansas Territory with like-minded folk to ensure its entering the Union as a Free State. Lidie packs up and goes with him. And the novel races alongside them into the Territory, into the maelstrom of "Bloody Kansas," where slaveholding Missourians constantly and viciously clash with Free Staters, where wandering youths kill you as soon as look at you--where Lidie becomes even more fervently abolitionist than her husband as the young couple again and again barely escape entrapment in webs of atrocity on both sides of the great question. And when, suddenly, cold-blooded murder invades her own intimate circle, Lidie doesn't falter. She cuts off her hair, disguises herself as a boy, and rides into Missouri in search of the killers--a woman in a fiercely male world, an abolitionist spy in slave territory. On the run, her life threatened, her wits sharpened, she takes on yet another identity--and, in the very midst of her masquerade, discovers herself. Lidie grows increasingly important to us as we follow her travels and adventures on the feverish eve of the War Between the States. With its crackling portrayal of a totally individual and wonderfully articulate woman, its storytelling drive, and its powerful recapturing of an almost forgotten part of the American story, this is Jane Smiley at her enthralling and enriching best. From the Trade Paperback edition.

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