Sunday, October 24, 2010

Jubilee Trail, Gwen Bristow

Author: Gwen Bristow
Published: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1950
Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 5/10

I was browsing through AAR's DIK reviews a couple of weeks ago -- and found an A review for Jubilee Trail by Gwen Bristow. One of my favorite books of all time was written by Gwen Bristow (Celia Garth), and I realized that I'd never tried any of her other books. My library had this one, so I gave it a try.

Garnet Cameron turns 18 in the year 1844. She is the daughter of a nice, well-to-do family, who live in a nice house on Union Square in New York City. She has marriage offers from respectable men who, well, bore her. She wants adventure in a time when young ladies of good birth didn't get to have adventures. Then she meets Oliver Hale, a man who makes his living by trading along the Jubilee Trail, which stretches from St. Louis to California. When Oliver proposes, Garnet jumps at the chance to have an exciting life. And off they go on their way to California.

Now I think I understand why my mom (who gave me Celia Garth) never gave me this one to read. I read this whole, looong book, but I was close to giving up lots of times. By the end I was skimming because while I really wanted to stop, for some reason I also wanted to know what happened in the end. I think this means that the story and plot was good, but that the characters were poorly done.

Garnet is naive, but plucky and brave in a way that is not very believable (and, imo, quite annoying). She, and all the other characters, struck me as sadly one-dimensional. Her adventures seem unrealistic too. And one thing that really disgusted me was several scenes in which the Indians encountered along the way are described as non-human. Now, this book was published in 1950, but that doesn't excuse it.

Honestly, this book made me wonder what I would think of Celia Garth had I read it for the first time now, instead of when I was a preteen. I know that my standards have gotten a lot higher.

1 comment:

Marmee said...

One of the saddest things about books I loved when younger is that I didn't notice their insensitivity. I think you'd still like Celia, though it's a little wide-eyed and romantic, but the social attitudes of some of Bristow's other books -- racist as they are -- or the zenophobia and anti-German slant of Elswyth Thane's books -- which I don't think you ever took to -- really raise my hackles now. Makes me wonder why I was so blind in my youth. But then what in the world is old age for?
1950 indeed, young lady! You know that's the year of your Marmee's birth. Not so long ago, IMHO.