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Once again the tragedy of the Donner party has been used as the basis of a novel of the testing of the human spirit. While Norah Lofts gives credit to George Stewart's Ordeal By Hunger, she makes no mention of other novels that have used the same material- Mabie's The Long knives Walk, back in 1932, was the first I recall; there was a poetic drama following that- and recurrently writers have found it pregnant with significance. For here- in history- is the raw melodrama of humans forced by circumstances to test the dictates of civilization when survival was at stake. Norah Lofts has chosen to use fictional names -- but the parallels to the members of the expedition are there. She has employed the technique of the flashback to give their stories depth. She has suggested the existence of a diary that left for future generations a record. She has broken her material down into three main sections:- The Road, The People, The Revelation. And she has kept close to the known and accepted facts of the grim passage from Fort Mason, where Kevin Furmage projected his dream of finding a shorter, safer route to the gold fields of California- and brought into one party the group of wagon trail immigrants that met their roles as villains and heroes as the merciless forces of nature doomed their journey to disaster. Whenever told, the story itself provides its drama and inspiration. Norah Lofts has made the most of it.

Pub Date: Oct. 13th, 1955
Publisher: Doubleday