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The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  2,375 ratings  ·  303 reviews

Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Thousand Acres

"Rousing . . . Action-packed . . . A gripping story about love, fortitude, and convictions that are worth fighting for."--Los Angeles Times


"POWERFUL . . . Smiley takes us back to Kansas in 1855, a place of rising passions and vast uncertainties. Narrated in the
Paperback, 452 pages
Published December 29th 1998 by Ballantine Books (first published 1998)
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Jennifer Just found the answer to my own question. Had to read to page 93, to find it ("A Letter to Illinois)-1855.

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Average rating 3.57  · 
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 ·  2,375 ratings  ·  303 reviews

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Oct 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: xx2017-completed
Kansas Territory in the mid-19th Century was a hotbed of conflict and a commonwealth of hardship. Struggling to enter the Union, it was formed by settlers attracted by the opportunity to “claim” land and make a fresh start in life. Lawrence, Kansas was founded by the New England Emigrant Aid Company and its initial platform was political – on the side of abolitionists. However, just across the river was Missouri and the people of the time in that State were just as strongly pro-slavery.

As with
Joy D
Protagonist Lydia (Lidie) Newton delivers a first-hand fictional account of life in the mid-1850’s for an adventurous, unconventional, and smart woman. She is twenty years old, and her older sisters worry about their youngest sister, as they believe she will become a spinster due to her independent spirit, plain looks, and refusal to marry an older widower with many children (whose previous wives have died of disease or infections from childbirth). Thomas Newton, an abolitionist, comes through ...more
Oct 15, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: hf, usa, audible, race, 2014-read
The first half of the story is really, really good, but the second half doesn't quite ring true.

Nevertheless, the book isn't bad. I think it is improved by listening to rather than reading it. The narration by Anna Fields improves the book. The lines themselves are worth spending time on. Fields reads these lines with strength, clearly and strongly and slowly. You have time to think about what is being said. Secondly, through the narration the different characters' personalities come through
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
This story of one woman's turbulent life in the newly-created Kansas Territory both entertains and educates. Wanting to escape a life of household chores in her sisters' homes, Lidie marries an abolitionist passing through her Illinois town on the way to Kansas. The Kansas Territory isn't what she expected, though, and she spends the bulk of the book dealing with challenges ranging from terrible weather to violent Border Ruffians.

Unlike some other reviewers, I found this book not just
Mar 12, 2009 rated it did not like it
I have liked Jane Smiley books in the past and looked forward to this one. Unfortunately, I think it would have been better named the Trials and Tribulations rather than Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton. I am from Lawrence, KS myself, so reading about Lawrence in 1855 was of interest to me for many reasons. I kept slogging through, hoping the story would pick up and carry me along, but ultimately I felt "message" overshadowed "story," a perspective I didn't really develop till reading the ...more
Brenda C Kayne
May 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
The first half of the book is a wonderful, creative piece of historical fiction based on a young woman's experience in Lawrence, Kansas just prior to the Civil War. The book is a dramatic, robust depiction of what it was like to be a "Free-Stater" and abolitionist among ignorant, gun happy pioneers. Lidie, the adventurous (but not so heroic) protagonist, comes to Kansas and its raucous, intense atmosphere through her marriage to a stoic, well-meaning New Englander. She would never have been ...more
Apr 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: english, history
Nice story that plays mostly in Missouri and the so-called 'Kansas territory' during the 'Bleeding Kansas' (see Wikipedia) period, i.e. 1840 - 1860. An engaging read but not as good as the 'Last Hundred Years' trilogy by the same author, probably because the historical narrative takes precedence over the fiction too often.
Ron Charles
Dec 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Ernest Hemingway once said, "All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called 'Huckleberry Finn,' " and since then a river of ink has flowed to justify that monumental claim.

Two years ago, Jane Smiley went against this current of praise and took the nation's school teachers to task for excusing what she considers Twain's moral passivity in response to slavery.

In Harper's magazine the Pulitzer Prize-winning author wrote, "All the claims that are routinely made for the
May 07, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can't say I liked this book, ... but I didn't dislike it, ... . It was just 'flat.' I liked the premise of the plot; I think I liked the characters, but the story didn't really draw me in until the last 100 pages. That leaves about 350 pages that I plowed through, a few pages at a time. Those last 100 pages pulled the book from a 2.5 star rating to 3 stars.

I would have appreciated an Author's Note explaining how much of this is based on fact. Which, if any, of the characters are elaborations
Adrienne Jones
May 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2008
I just finished The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton. Someone in this club had read it, and it sounded interesting.

First of all I want to say, that after years of experience I no longer read 'book reviews' ala The New York Times, Business Week, etc. until I've finished a book. I enjoy putting thought and effort into my reading, and I can't stand the idea that my thoughts aren't original. I absolutely hate when people read the popular book du jour, (or watch a film for that matter)
Andrew Breslin
Jan 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Jane Smiley is one of my favorite writers, and this is my favorite of her books. A Thousand Acres got a lot more attention, including the Pulitzer Prize and an insultingly modified Hollywood adaptation, but this is the one that really blew me away.

You can't really discuss this book without comparing it to Huckleberry Finn, one of the greatest books ever written, hands down, no contest. Both concerned escaped slaves seeking freedom during the tumultuous period preceding the Civil War. In fact, my
Jul 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An interesting look at the 1850s in the Kansas Territory through the eyes of a young woman.

Read by Mare Winningham.
Lasts about 5 hours.

I purchased the abridged version of The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton on tape (5 hours) and found it to be quite enjoyable. The listener is treated to a ground level view of the politics of slavery in the 1850s and how violence based on the 'goose question' (code for the slavery issue) swept through households, towns and eventually the entire
Aug 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
It was stunning at times. I did wonder why the author chose to use "g --" & "d---" instead of spelling those words out while she used several idioms of "the N word" straight out. I still struggle with that. I can see where the main character may have made that choice if these had actually been her writings, or maybe I can't?
I seem to remember reading "true life" narratives from writers who were black, and some who were former slaves, written in the 19th century, and the use of the "N-word"
Aug 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I read this years ago. and will try to find my review...
Jeanne Mixon
Sep 12, 2019 rated it liked it
It's a little hard to know what to think about this novel. As one character said (basically to the reader) it is a tragedy. The novel is about a woman from Illinois who marries a man from Boston who is an abolishionist. They move to the territory of Kansas and the historical events that ensued as Missouri attempted to claim Kansas as a slave state and the abolishionists resisted are woven through the narrative. Through Lidie, Smiley envisions what it would have been like to be a simple person ...more
Jun 03, 2018 rated it liked it
This is a fine book, written with craft and style and yet....

If forced to pick just one, I think the adjective I would use to describe this novel is sedate, which is somewhat odd because it involves some of the most tumultuous times in one of the most contentious areas in American history, the years just before the Civil War at the intersection between North and South. Smiley does a fine job invoking the time, and I admire her apparent scholarship, but the story itself is surprisingly mild.

Marcia Lonteen-Martin
Sep 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 15, 2019 rated it liked it
Reading this story is like listening to a long-winded person talk, and talk. Normally I love historical fiction and there was much here that was both very enjoyable and educational. I had no previous knowledge of the conflicts brought on by the settling of Kansas. There were also sections that seemed to drag, and some events that didn't seem plausible.
I loved that Lidie grew so much over the course of the year. She listened to both sides of the story and then formed her own opinions. Nothing was
Ryan Houck
Jan 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The narrative bounces along like a run away wagon. Veering now into 19th cent sentimental novel, now into contemporary cross dressing dialogue, and then into satire. I loved the line: "I suspected that I would never feel truly embarrassed again" (446). The ending echoes in the cavern of 1860s history. Suddenly a slightly silly story felt dour.
I enjoyed looking up the history of Kansas before our civil war. I knew so little. The book reminds me of Twain.
Nov 07, 2011 rated it liked it
My mom insisted on buying this for me at a garage sale. I think I'd give it 3.5 stars. It was very well-written and I couldn't put it down for the last 100-150 pages (it's 400+) because I had to know what was going to happen to Lidie. There are certainly many twists and turns. I just can't give it 4 stars because the ending was a little disappointing. I don't want to be a spoiler. It wasn't poorly written or even poorly conceived; I think that, as the reader, I was invested in Lidie and just ...more
Dara Salley
Jun 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
This was a thoroughly enjoyable book. I was a little put off by the title because it seemed a little whimsical to me, but I think it was just meant to be a reference to the overly ornate titles of certain books in the 1800’s.

The book made me think about slavery in a different way. From my vantage point in history slavery has always seemed like a majestic moral issue. Reading this book made me realize that before the Civil War slavery was just another contentious political issue, similar to the
Apr 17, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical-novel
One reviewer called this book Little House on the Prairie for Adults. A cutsy turn of phrase, but not what I thought this book deserved.
Set in the 1850s in Kansas Territory, the story is about the people who were settling the area, how they survived the winter on the prairie and how high the feelings ran about whether or not the area would enter the United States as free or slave.
Lidie Newton comes to this Kansas Territory with her husband, Thomas, who is an abolitionist, determined to insure
Linda Abhors the New GR Design
So bad I couldn't finish it. That means bad, because I almost always finish books I pick up, even if I don't like them much.
All I remember is a very inconsistent voice; she couldn't make up her mind whether her narrator would speak as an uneducated rube or one who would use stilted, formal expressions probably not encountered often in the plains in those days. These things would pop up within sentences of each other. Book club selection chosen by someone else. If I had gone on any further, I
Jan 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: historical-fun
I really loved this book, but I could tell that it would not be universally appealing. My favorite part of the book is the author's excellent representation of the culture of the time period and the accurate and detailed portrayal of the many different settings throughout America in which heroine lives. Some readers may find some of Lidie's adventures toward the end of the novel a little far-fetched, but I felt like it added some good fun. Lidie Newton is certainly not your average heroine but ...more
Aug 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: midwest
Smiley is an amazing writer. She somehow manages to evoke the style & tone of 19th-century writers such as Mark Twain or Dickens without imitating them; that is, she still has her own, contemporary voice at the same time. I don't know the history of territorial Kansas well, but the experience she evoked rant true to me (& was confirmed as remarkably accurate by my friend, Virgil Dean, the editor of Kansas History).
Sep 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Despite caring little about the issue of slavery which is propelling 1850s America ever closer to civil war Lidie Harkness agrees to marry the thoughtful but arguably naïve New Englander, Thomas Newton, a committed “abolitionist”. A book-loving tomboy, who likes to ride a horse bareback, and once swam the treacherous Mississippi for the sheer challenge, she is lured by the adventure of life as a settler’s wife, developing a “claim” on the “free soil”of the falsely promoted Kansas Territory. All ...more
Aug 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: historical, 2017
My daughter goes to school at the University of Kansas where the mascot is the Jayhawk. In Lawrence there are also a lot of things named with "Free State" at the beginning and I, at first, didn't think much about it, but slowly I began to realize what a significant history Kansas has regarding slavery. I also love Oprah--I subscribe to her magazine and page to the books section as soon as it arrives in the mail. Well, in one issue, I read about The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie ...more
Dec 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was the first book I’ve read by the prolific author, Jane Smiley, and ended up wanting to read more of her work. The formatting of this historical fiction as a memoir made the novel more engaging and real. There were times, as I was reading, I felt very much a part of the story.

It takes place in Kansas and Missouri prior to the Civil War but not before Bloody Kansas served as a preview for the settlers to see what the Civil War would bring. The two protagonists, Lydia, from Quincy,
Apr 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton by Jane Smiley held my interest with violent, exciting moments of action and quiet, tense moments of anxiety. Through the eyes of a first person narrator, the reader sees the pro-slavery versus abolition sentiments boiling to the surface in Missouri and the Kansas Territory five years before the Civil War.

The novel begins in Quincy, Illinois. Lydia Newton, the troublesome stepsister of older siblings, is rushed into a marriage with a New
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Jane Smiley is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist.

Born in Los Angeles, California, Smiley grew up in Webster Groves, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis, and graduated from John Burroughs School. She obtained a A.B. at Vassar College, then earned a M.F.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. While working towards her doctorate, she also spent a year studying in Iceland as a Fulbright
“Evil people must spread their evil everywhere.” 2 likes
“Northerners, even abolitionists, knew more about how and why to chop down the slavery tree than they ever knew what to do with its sour fruit.” 0 likes
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