The Library Lady's Reviews > Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West

Nothing Daunted by Dorothy Wickenden
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's review
Oct 02, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: adult-biography

Looking at the author blurb I was appalled to find that she teaches a course in "narrative non-fiction" to college students. Has she taken such a course herself?

She apparently has a wondrous cache of letter and other materials from her grandmother (Dorothy) and from Ros, but instead of letting them tell the story, she tells it herself and her style is flat and uninspired. The first part of the book is particularly bad--I assume she wants to fill in lots of background before getting to the meat of her story. But by switching back and forth from little bits of the narrative to the background, she makes things disjointed.

There is far too much detail about background issues not really related to the story. Yes, the Mott road was marvelous, but we need a quick explanation, not 3 pages of its history. We really don't need to hear about "Queen Ann", Butch Cassidy's girlfriend, the full history of the coal mines, or a myriad of other subjects. What we need more of is Dorothy and Ros's story. More of Dorothy and Ros's voices.

They would have been better served by Wickenden's editing their letters and making a book from that, with short sections of her narrative to explain references and fill in gaps. I wish she'd written that book instead of this one.

And perhaps she can use this book as an example to her students of what NOT to do in constructing "narrative non-fiction". Sigh....
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05/22/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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Krista the Krazy Kataloguer It looked promising, but now I think I'll pass. What will you bet she has her students read this book?

The Library Lady I'd read it--it is interesting, it's just not as good as it can be.

Poor students if she does--doubt if she'll allow constructive critcism.

message 3: by Lynn (last edited Aug 18, 2012 04:28AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lynn Pribus I'm still wading through and definitely agree with you. Suffers by comparison with, say, LETTERS FROM YELLOWSTONE -- a slender fictional account of the early days in the world's first national park.

message 4: by Dan (new) - rated it 1 star

Dan Library Lady, I couldn't agree with you more. Nicely said.

Krista the Krazy Kataloguer Maybe I'll read it anyway, as the ladies were from Auburn, New York, not far from where I live.

Jeanne Neusetzer What are you talking about? All she has are what probably amounted to a modest collection of one sided letters from nearly a century ago. Kudos to Ms. Wickenden for pulling out a story from limited source material. She expertly researched the time and place, social goings on and political events to really give a sense of what these women accomplished. She crafted a far more readable version of a story than what you propose with merely reprinting the letters themselves.

The Library Lady Apparently you and I read different books, Jeanne.

Also you apparently didn't read my review, because I didn't suggest "merely reprinting the letters," just that she added far too much superfluous background that distracted from the story!

Donna I found the subject interesting but the writing flat. The further into the book I got, the more boring and forced the writing got. I kept reading just to see how the story ended. I was not impressed.

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