OUR COUNTRY THEN by Dale Van Every


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When a man has spent years of research into the period when our country was beginning to push west of Pittsburgh, when he has been driven by consuming curiosity concerning what the country was like, and what people thought and did 180 years ago, it is not unreasonable that he must wonder how much of this vast horde of material has reached the readers of the novels of which it forms the background. The threat of Indian retaliation was a haunting factor; but what was life among the Indians actually like? The flatboats carried whole families west via the rivers; what happened when floods and storms hit the unwieldy things? Buffalo were so numerous as to be a menace; how were they hunted on foot? How fast did the wealth of game disappear as the white men with their guns moved west? These questions and many more are answered in the course of a half dozen novels, but in this volume Van Every has worked backwards. He has lifted from his own writings fragments, incidents, descriptions, personalities (most of them fictional but typical) and woven the whole into a rich canvas of the background of living in this area of the frontier. The same characters appear and reappear, not always in orderly fashion, so that the reader finds himself trying to fit the pieces together, rather than taking the incidents as contributing to the portrait of the times. It has color and drama and story; it is often confusing if one tries to be too orderly; but I think he achieves his goal. It is certainly a novel effort.

Pub Date: March 24th, 1958
Publisher: Holt