Saturday, May 18, 2013

Astoria –by Washington Irving

Publisher: Echo Library
326 Pages
Footnotes/Endnotes: A few
Suitable for eReaders: Yes
4 Stars

Written circa 1835, this book is, quite literally, living history. Unfortunately, the publisher did not list an original publication date, though they published it in 2007. There are no endnotes, and very few footnotes. My biggest complaints were lack of index (which I think could have been added with modern technology) and no maps.

I bought this book primarily as a reference on the life of Marie and Pierre Dorion, and because of the lack of index, I had to read it all. Hmmm, maybe I'm a little glad there was no index. The book was well written, though one must give patience for some of the wordage (Indian women are 'squaws' if mentioned at all, and all Indians are 'savages,' but such was the vernacular of the day).

The descriptions of the trip the Hunt party made from St. Louis to Astoria is spectacular in areas. Their trip covered 3500 miles. As the crow flies today, it is 1800 miles. Mr. Hunt lead a party of trappers across the continent in 1811 for his boss, John Astor. Hunt made several decisions along the trek, costing lives and time.

If you are interested in the history of the opening of the Oregon Territories, the mountain men, the fur trappers and hunters, this book reads more like a well-written novel than a history book. It is an exciting book, about exciting people. One would almost think Irving made the trip.

The descriptions of the Natives and how they lived are wonderful. The description of how the French Canadians and Mountain Men dressed is delightful.

It would be helpful if this book is ever reprinted to have an editor go through it and tell us what the places mentioned are either called today, or where they are located on today's maps. The Great Falls of the Columbia no longer exist, well, that's not quite true, they do exist, they are just covered by Celilo Lake, made when The Dalles Dam flooded the Columbia River. (When I was a girl, they were known as Celilo Falls, and I remember not only the falls, but the Indians fishing from them.)