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The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton: A Novel Paperback – Dec 29 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (Dec 29 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0449910830
  • ISBN-13: 978-0449910832
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 2.6 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 363 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,128,003 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Amazon

All too often, this abridged version of the cassette edition of The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton leaves the listener breathless. Jane Smiley's 450-page action-packed story of pioneers in the 1850s has been reduced, here, to four compact tapes, each one galloping across the prairie landscape of abolitionist politics and homesteading hardships with the abandon of the Pony Express. Read by actress Mare Winningham (Georgia, St. Elmo's Fire), the tale belongs entirely to its resilient heroine, Lidie Newton, whose whirlwind adventures begin with her marriage to abolitionist Thomas Newton and their departure for the Kansas Territory. There, the uneasy co-existence between emigrant abolitionists and pro-slavery Missourians is forever erupting, spewing forth disreputable characters and spirited subplots that tax even Lidie's tenacious optimism. Winningham has fun adding vocal nuance to this colorful cast, though Lidie emerges a little more refined on tape than she appears in print. In the interest of economy, the tapes also eliminate context-such as the overheated political backdrop for so many events or the private voices of the Newton marriage. Here is Lidie a few months into her marriage, in a passage omitted from this cassette: "Thus, I sat across from my husband. . .wondering whether he was the closed, dull, stiffly upright, and self-righteous person part of me seemed to see, or the pained, lonely, and worried person another part of me seemed to see." By losing these rare glimpses at an introspective Lidie, the tapes sacrifice the deeper dimensions of the book. Stripped of the more writerly Smiley, they leave, instead, a fast-paced, entertaining story, narrowly saved from melodrama by Lidie's clear-eyed view of matters and Smiley's fluid handling of the narrative. If you're not a purist, this abridged version offers a worthwhile diversion for a day's outing-with or without the kids.(5 Hours; 4 cassettes) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

An immensely appealing heroine, a historical setting conveyed with impressive fidelity and a charming and poignant love story make Smiley's (A Thousand Acres) new novel a sure candidate for bestseller longevity. Lidie Harkness, a spinster at 20, is an anomaly in 1850s Illinois. She has an independent mind, a sharp tongue and a backbone; she prefers to swim, shoot, ride and fish rather than spend a minute over the stove or with a darning needle. That makes her the perfect bride for Bostonian abolitionist Thomas Newton, who courts and marries her in a few days while enroute to Lawrence, K.T. (Kansas Territory), with a box of Sharps rifles. As the newlyweds gingerly come to know each other, they are plunged into the turmoil between pro-slavery Border Ruffians from Missouri and K.T. Free Staters, an increasingly savage conflict that presages the Civil War. Smiley evokes antebellum life with a depth of detail that easily equals Russell Banks's exploration of the same terrain in Cloudsplitter (Forecasts, Dec. 1, 1997). Her scenes of quotidian domesticity on the prairie are as engrossing as her evocation of riverboat travel on the Mississippi. Through an exquisite delineation of physical and social differences, she distinguishes and animates settings as diverse as Lawrence, Kansas City, St. Louis and New Orleans. As Lidie and Thomas experience privation, danger and the growing pleasures of emotional intimacy, and as tragedy strikes and Lidie pursues a perilous revenge, Smiley explores the complex moral issues of the time, paying acute attention to inbred attitudes on both sides of the slavery question. Propelled by Lidie's spirited voice, this narrative is packed with drama, irony, historical incident, moral ambiguities and the perception of human frailty. Much of its suspenseful momentum derives from Smiley's adherence to plausible reality: this is not a novel in which things necessarily turn out right for the heroine, for women in general, for blacks or for the righteous. Lidie's character deepens as she gains insight into the ambiguous and complex forces that propel men and women into love and compassion, hatred and violence. In the end, this novel performs all the functions of superior fiction: in reading one woman's moving story, we understand an historical epoch, the social and political conditions that produced it and the psychological, moral and economic motivations of the people who incited and endured its violent confrontations. 200,000 first printing; Random House audio.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

Format: Paperback
I just finished "Lidie Newton" last night and I have to say I'm still divided on whether I'd recommend this book. I guess the best way to qualify it is that I'm not sure I'd suggest it to a friend, but I'd definitely like it if my daughters read it.
I make my home in Kansas City and so the historical aspect was particularly interesting to me, probably much more so than for someone who did not grow up here. Having a first-person account from a character as interesting as Lidie also made it more appealing. She's a great character -- more confused than noble, plain, funny, selfish on one hand and tender on the other, smart about some things and really ignorant on others. Jane Smiley knows how to write great characters and Lidie was a much better history lesson than any I remember getting in school. (I had to refresh my memory on the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Missouri Compromise when I read this).
However, I do agree with readers who complain that the book drags in places... it does. Those slower places may reveal some interesting tidbit but what could have been said in one page seemed to go on for five. The temptation to skim was really overwhelming, especially after she leaves K.T. for Missouri. People who are looking for a satisfying ending will not get one, as the book just seems to abruptly stop with no hint of what or where Lidie's life will be made. This is what keeps it from being a "five star" book and an unqualified "must read". Because sometimes I had to MAKE myself read it.
That being said, I'm glad I did. It really made me think about the beliefs and the behaviors of the people who settled here -- some, my own relatives. While most of the book is understandably pro-Kansas, anti-Missouri, Ms.
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Format: Paperback
I've read this novel twice and listened to it once on tape and found it to be thoroughly enjoyable each reading. The description of the conflict in Kansas Territory between the abolitionists and the Missourians was rivoting and engaging. Smiley provided an immense amount of detailed history--clearly she did her homework. Some readers find this distracting from the story; personally, I find that it added an originality and realism to the narrative. This is not a conversational piece; rather it is the narrative of Lidie's experiences, not her emotions. Lidie is appealing to me as a heroine because she is portrayed so realistically with a mix of passive and aggressive traits. As a reader I sometimes found her inaction frustrating; however, inaction is a part of life. Other readers have complained that the novel is depressing; I object to that analysis. The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton is not an escapist novel and one should not expect it to be. In my opinion, it is a de-Romanticized retelling of Huck Finn with a woman as the lead character. I highly recommend this book as one of my favorite novels and Smiley as one of my favorite authors.
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I wrote a review while I was still reading this, and now that I'm done, I've downgraded it to a one star. History is supposed to be a backdrop in historical novels, but in this one, Liddie's monotonous narrative about events and people overwhelms the story. I finally began skipping the long narratives, and don't feel I missed anything. Apparently, it seems that Smiley was more interested in showing off her research than in telling a good story.
The second half was really dull. I couldn't really figure out why Liddie pinpointed those certain men as the ones who killed her husband. That was really unclear. Her dressing as a man held promise, but that fizzled out too quickly. Her reasons for not accepting a lift to Independence were entirely unconvincing. Worse yet was the ending. We have Liddie return home finally to Quincy, and then the story suddenly skips ten years to the end of the Civil War. She says that she and Frank spoke of Kansas for the first time--but what was she doing ten years in the future? Where was she living, was she married, or what?
All I can say, is I'm glad I bought it used. Better yet, I should've just borrowed it from the library.
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I'm still reading this book, but it is not what I expected. I thought this would be a story of an adventurous young woman who travels out west and does something--maybe starts a business, opens a saloon, becomes the first female sheriff...instead, she marries and has a man take her to Kansas, and all they're doing is fighting the pro-slave folks from Missouri. In between, she's cooking corncakes and sewing quilts. What happened to the strong woman from the first few chapters?
At any rate, I can't keep track of all of the characters that are thrown in. All of their friends in K.T. are completely indistinguishable from one another. I find that I'm skipping paragraphs and even pages of boring dialog and trying to get back to Liddie's story. The history is interesting, but it's getting tiring because it's the same thing repeated over and over again. So maybe I'll read on, because I would like to see some adventure and travels as the title says. But for now, a two star is all its getting.
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