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Review: Into the Wilderness, by Sara Donati


Pages: 876

Original date of publication: 1998

My edition: 2008 (Delta)

Why I decided to read: found it browsing in Barnes and Noble

How I acquired my copy: Barnes and Noble, April 2010

Set during the years of 1792 and 1973, Into the Wilderness is the story of the love affair between Elizabeth Middleton, an English woman who comes to upstate New York to be a school teacher; and Nathaniel Bonner, son of “Hawkeye” Bonner.

The story takes the reader a lot of places; literally, the characters get lost in the woods at many places and therefore the story seems to chase its own tail sometimes. I loved the idea that the story started out with, but sometimes the author tended to borrow a little too much from the novels of other authors; the story about Claire and Jamie Fraser (from the Outlander series) seemed thrown in there, and not as though it really had any bearing on the rest of the book. I’ve never read James Fenimore Cooper’s book, so I can’t really comment on how close this novel sticks to the original. The author even seemed to channel Jane Austen at one point: “Aunt Merriweather loved children excessively, but Elizabeth thought of her cousin Marianne at an assembly ball, her mouth open in a small moue of disdain as she whispered behind her fan: ‘Imagine Jane Bingley dancing, and so obviously enceinte.’” (p. 555).

There are a lot of really good details of the period and place in which Into the Wilderness is set, but I thought that the characters really needed to be improved upon; they seemed very modern to me. Elizabeth is your typical feisty, independent heroine, and Nathaniel is the strong, silent type, who nonetheless exudes less sex appeal than Jamie Fraser in the Outlander series. The characters in Gabaldon’s series were much more interesting and complex than Sara Donati’s. Elizabeth’s constant harping on the fact that she’s a spinster got very, very annoying after a while, too. The romance side of the story is very heavy at first, which I enjoyed (surprisingly enough for me), but it seemed to drop off a bit towards the middle; and Richard was so much like the bad guy from Outlander that I found myself rolling my eyes in several places while reading Into the Wilderness. I’m sorry I didn’t totally love this book, but other people might; Donati does a great job of describing the places she’s writing about.

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