Emily's Reviews > Impatient with Desire

Impatient with Desire by Gabrielle Burton
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Jun 24, 2010

did not like it
bookshelves: fiction, usa
Read from June 24 to 26, 2010

Nabokov once said (and I paraphrase heavily) that a true reader is a re-reader, so my main rating system on here has been based primarily on the question: would I re-read this? The short answer for "Impatient with Desire" is a flat no. But the answer to the *perhaps* more important question, "Did this book inspire a burning desire--an impatient one, you might say--inside me to read anything and everything on the subject at hand?" is an emphatic YES!

Burton's curiosity about the Donners led her to this interesting project--that is, to compile all known documents written by and about Tamsen Donner into a piece of creative non-fiction in the form of her diary--but it seemed to fall short of its lofty aims. The "diary" starts when the Donners are already trapped in the Sierra Nevada, and the reader learns of their tragic path to said wintery hellhole through flashbacks in Tamsen's diary. Talk about suspending belief that a woman nibbling at her ox skin rug for nourishment under 20 feet of snow with 4+ kids and a gangreneous husband in a hastily constructed tent-shanty felt compelled to document conversations verbatim between members of the wagon train four months prior. I mean, really.

I will say that, given my slight aversion to the medium (a faux diary of a real person?!), it did afford a few advantages, at least when it came to my emotional attachment to Tamsen & co. Towards the end when the rest of the party has been rescued or died and it's just Tamsen and George Donner left, him with his gangrene and her with her strong will, they exit their dank shanty to spend a few minutes in the glistening snow. Tamsen's memory flashes back to happier times: the day they met, their wedding day, the beginning of the Trail. Her memory of the 4th of July on the Trail--"America's 70th birthday"--and the joy all the pioneers felt as they danced and fiddled and made merry in their 19th century way made me tear up a little. To have all that hope and independence and freedom and joy, and to end up eating your neighbor's body in a frozen shack in the mountains thousands of miles from home? God, can you possibly imagine?
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06/26/2010 page 139

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Sarah (new)

Sarah i can't figure out what it means that i'm finding all this donner party information so incredibly funny.

probably nothing good.

Emily oh, sarah. we can talk about this later. over the fire. when there's nothing left to eat.

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