A FEW ACRES OF SNOW by Robert Leckie


The Saga of the French and Indian Wars
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This latest entry in Leckie’s ever-expanding series of popular military histories of the US (Okinawa: The Last Battle of World War II, 1995, etc.) displays both the author’s idiosyncratic research methods and his tenuous grip on the principles of historiography. Beginning with a lengthy, superfluous account of the career of Christopher Columbus, Leckie proceeds by identifying the principal players and events in the violent pageant of the struggle for dominion in the New World—especially in Canada, a territory dismissed by Voltaire as “a few acres of snow.” Although Leckie relates colorful anecdotes about such compelling figures in the French and Indian Wars as Samuel de Champlain, Count Frontenac, George Washington, and Marquis Montcalm (he includes some harrowing and gory accounts of the tortures administered by the American Indians to unlucky Jesuit missionaries and slow-footed farmers, some of whom were roasted and eaten), he fails to achieve an effective narrative balance. He does not appear to have any sort of principle to guide his choice and arrangement of details. A sentence that begins with Columbus in Reykjavik ends in 1950 with the US Navy in the port of Seoul; halfway through a perfunctory chapter called “Heroines of Both Frontiers,” Leckie abruptly drops his discussion of courageous women and returns to battles and brutality and Real Men. Some sloppiness in writing and editing leave stylistic faults such as clichés (“kill two birds with one stone”), and use of awkward folksy locutions (“not worth a polliwog’s tail”). Finally, there are weird diatribes against the “starry-eyed American liberals” of today and against Oliver Cromwell, whom he twice identifies as a “hymn-singing swine.” Leckie is at his best describing weapons and wilderness warfare (his account of the battle for Quebec on the Plains of Abraham is swift and vivid), but A Few Acres of Snow is vitiated by its clumsy prose and odd conception of history. (3 maps)

Pub Date: April 23rd, 1999
ISBN: 0-471-24690-5
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Wiley
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1999


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