Lidie Newton

Posted by on Thursday, September 8th, 2005

Jane Smiley’s The All-True Trials and Adventures of Lidie Newton is historical fiction done pretty darn well.  Set in pre-Civil War Illinois, Missouri, and Kansas Territory, the novel follows Lydia Newton through her marriage to an abolitionist; their homesteading in Lawrence, Kansas and its environs; and her subsequent travels around Missouri.  Lidie is a thoroughly sympathetic character: a bright, honest woman who dislikes rules for rule’s sake, pretension, cruelty, and inaction.  Throughout the novel, I found myself rooting for Lidie and her friends.  I’d be shocked to find someone who didn’t do the same. 

My only gripes surround pacing.  Smiley’s reliance on period-style writing leaves the novel lagging in a few sections.  But it’s all forgivable, considering just how well Smiley handles her own version of period prose.  As usual, the author did her homework well.  This is, overall, a well-researched book with engaging characters and an unusually honest view of the west’s roll in the Civil War

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