Top critical review
MORE HYSTERICAL THAN HISTORICAL -– somewhat distorts history
December 4, 2019
I WAS A YUKONER. I began reading this novel with anticipation since I was a teacher near Dawson City (the Klondike) in the 1960s. I grew fond and knowledgeable of its people, history, geography and climate.
The more I read this novel, the more irritated and disappointed I became. Much of the first 100 or so pages pieced together some historical episodes and the journey it took to get from Seattle to Dawson City. But he did it in a boring way – mostly exposition through dialogue – chapter after chapter of detached talk that didn’t naturally arise from the characters.
ALIVE CHARACTERS? They were flat, lacking well-rounded personalities. About two-thirds through the book, I entirely lost my empathy for Anna, the supposed heroine. She didn’t have much inner strength, relied heavily on the men in her life, more a victim than a heroine.
TALK AND MORE TALK. The dialogues were much the same sounding. The characters, whether Americans, French, old-timers or new arrivals, poor, rich, educated or not, spoke much the same stilted dialect. The main characters spoke on and on, very little contribution to make the plot move forward. Also, they brought in much irrelevant information, such as Wounded Knee.
ALMOST QUIT. What nearly made me quit reading entirely was Anna’s confession at the Dawson City Catholic church. What a cheap stunt by the author, inventing a priest and demeaning him! Sure, “the King of the Klondike” contributed $30,000 to rebuild the church, in 1898, a year after Anna’s visit. And the priests in that area were self-sacrificing, dedicated and upright. Not at all as characterized in this book.
TRUE CHARACTERS? Speaking of “the King of the Klondike,” there was such a person, Alex MacDonald, a smart prospector and generous businessman from Nova Scotia. But the author invented a mean, murderous, whore-mongering, misogynist version. In fact, the author based many of his characters on the many fictitious “facts” and Hollywood-type of stories that grew out of various gold rushes in the west. Dawson City was a law-abiding town, thanks to the Mounties. And they didn’t wear their formal red uniforms on the job, even though the author “dresses” them that way – “bloodred uniforms!”
SAFE SEX? The author also ignores the realities of sex and prostitution. Instead, he paints such with romantic, no-danger concepts. That is, there are no pregnancies and venereal disease or fear of them to be found in the Klondike!
If you’re looking for an ultra-trite ending, you’ll get it. If you’re looking for historical and character accuracy, this book isn’t for you. Or for me.