Sunday, September 22, 2013

Book review: "Narrative of a Journey across the Rocky Mountains to the Columbia River"

"Narrative of Journey" is a remarkable look at the untamed American West of 1834-1837 through the eyes of a young naturalist, John Kirk Townsend. Despite its age, this account is quite readable. The smaller segments describing Townsend's visits to Hawaii, Tahiti and Chile are also enjoyable.

Since this is a diary, it does have some flat spots (not every day can be an adventure), but mostly Townsend fills his descriptions with details and color that bring his encounters alive. You can sense Townsend maturing as the journey goes on.

One suggestion to the editors: If a new edition is produced, it would be nice to include a map of Townsend's travels, because in some places it's hard to tell where he is.

A tip to the reader: Skip the introduction, since it's mostly just a summary of what you'll be reading. It does, however, contain a description of what happened to Townsend after the book, so go back and read that once you finish.

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