Jim's Reviews > Bohemian Girl

Bohemian Girl by Terese Svoboda
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May 13, 12

bookshelves: fiftyfiftyme, legion-of-vermin, latfob, small-press
Read from March 01 to April 01, 2012

Survival is first and foremost on the mind of the protagonist of Bohemian Girl, Terese Svoboda’s latest novel. It’s a book that eludes easy descriptions because it can be categorized so many ways: comic romp, historical picaresque, a drama about pluck and perseverance.

Svoboda’s slender narrative opens with its heroine, Harriet, pondering how to escape her fate as the slave of an Indian obsessed with building mounds. Through the course of her adventures, she avoids tornadoes and army camps, the latter being more dangerous to a young girl on her own.

Her saving graces are the limp she received from being shackled to the Indian and the quick wit she cultivates on the trail. Her lameness allows her to escape the attention she might otherwise receive, which she manipulates to her advantage throughout the story. Along the way, she spouts off pithy sayings that are both admirable and endearing: “Bravery when you have no choice is worth less if you brag about it.”

But to discuss Svoboda’s work without mentioning her writing is like going to a restaurant and describing only the architecture. By turns hallucinatory and precise, Svoboda, who comes from the heartland of Nebraska and now makes her home in New York City, pulls America’s past into focus with searing clarity. What I find particularly fascinating is that she never victimizes her protagonist to earn the reader’s empathy. Rather, her protagonist’s simple brand of con artistry so closely resembles the Horatio Alger rags-to-riches trajectory that the storylines are virtually identical. Harriet’s refusal to be made a victim transforms her from husker to huckster in a way that, like Huckleberry Finn on peyote, is both completely captivating and quintessentially American.

If you love True Grit or Winter's Bone, Bohemian Girl belongs on your bookshelf.
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Reading Progress

03/29/2012 page 45
22.0% ""Bravery when you have no choice is worth less if you brag about it.""
03/31/2012 page 79
38.0% ""Before the pumpkin moon, we escape.""
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Steve (new) - added it

Steve This sounds good.


message 2: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Outlandishly good.


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