GREAT HEART: The History of a Labrador Adventure by James West & John Rugge Davidson

GREAT HEART: The History of a Labrador Adventure

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By two modern-day explorers, historians, and canoeing enthusiasts, a rich, elegantly handled retelling of three canoeing expeditions across the barrens of Labrador in the first decade of this century. This is a strange book, but a good one. It is strange because one doesn't expect a straightforward description of three 80-year-ago canoe trips to be so compelling--but it is, and with a vengeance that will satisfy the most sedentary literary explorer. Quite apart from the pure appeal of the story--about the doomed 550-mile expedition of Leonidas Hubbard, his best friend Dillion Wallace, and their half-breed guide George Elson in 1903; followed by the successful rival expeditions of Wallace and Hubbard's wife, Mina, in 1905 (Hubbard had starved to death, and Mina blamed Wallace)--this is a sincere book about powerful emotions in the most extreme conditions of loneliness, cold, and starvation. It is lack London made real, Robert Service turned deadly serious. Yet, though horrifying in places (on the original expedition Hubbard's men were reduced to eating their moccasins), the narrative is consistently interesting and occasionally even funny, part of its charm accruing from our historical distance, which allows us to take in details unrecognized or willfully ignored by the participants. Davidson, an accomplished historian (After The Fact: The Art of Historical Detection, 1982), and Rugge, a very literate physician, first described Labrador in their useful guidebook The Complete Wilderness Paddler (1976), and it is out of their combined love of history, canoeing, and the wilderness--and their ten-year fascination with Hubbard--that they have come up with this excellent book.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1988
Publisher: Viking