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

3.6 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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99 by Wayne Gretzky 99 by Wayne Gretzky

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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: 13.5 x 2.5 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 363 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #918,818 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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 alternate Paperback edition.

From Library Journal

A woman whose abolitionist husband is murdered in 1850s Kansas cuts her hair and tracks his killers to Missouri. A 200,000-copy first printing.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Let me begin by saying that this is a good book. You would not be wasting your time by reading it. However, there are several problems with the way this is written that make me think Jane Smiley at some point lost control of what she was trying to accomplish.
First, the book is basically divided into two parts--a long segment that takes place in the Kansas Territory, and a not-as-long part that takes Lidie off on the adventures alluded to in the title. The first part is way too long. Although I understand Smiley needed to set everything up in order to knock it down, there must have been a way to do it in fewer pages. Reading about how difficult life is in the Kansas territory gets tiresome after a while, and I was just waiting and waiting for something to happen.
When things finally do begin to happen, however, Smiley crams so much action into the second half of the book that there's barely a chance to take it all in, and the various events lose their impact. After the rush of all these events, the book just kind of fizzles out. You never learn what becomes of the rest of Lidie's life, which is pretty frustrating.
Another problem is that Lidie herself starts out as a neutral sort of character--she becomes an abolitionist because her new husband is one, but she admits that she has never thought much about the issues herself. Maybe Smiley intended to have Lidie become more righteous and firmly abolitionist as the novel went on, but this just doesn't happen. She seems pretty neutral about the slavery issue right up to the end. Which is not to say that the book doesn't take a stand against slavery--it does, in a powerful way. But it does so through an escaped slave named Lorna, not through the ambivalent Lidie herself.
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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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Format: Paperback
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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By A Customer on Aug. 13 1999
Format: Paperback
Lidie's story is promising for the first half and then she becomes exceedingly ladylike and fails at all her attempts to do anything. It is generally known that true ladies can do little out there in the world and must languish and blame their failures on their refinement. Another problem is 'the Missourians', in this politically-charged book. All Missourians are described as cartoonish, drunken, pro-slavery villans. A political assertion deserves refutation. Here is a quote from a reprint of 'Memoirs Of The Rebellion On The Border, 1863'by Wiley Britton, a Union Missourian who fought with a Kansas Unit. ""Probably some of those who are so careless in their remakrs in regard to all the people of this state being rebels, would not like to acknowledge that Missouri, after furnishing all the men she has for the rebel army, has also furnished more men for the Union army than either of the great states Iowa or Massachusetts....a double sacrifice is put upon the Union soldiers of this state...under all the extraordinary trials and difficulties, of desolation and ruin, they have remained firm in their devotion and loyalty to the Government." The novel becomes polemical in the second half and Lidie becomes the typical ladylike and passive character. She attempts in a half-hearted way to rescue a slave, but of course merely rushed out with her into the night, the slave is caught and sold downriver. the slave will suffer in the cane fields, but Lidie goes East and lectures to admiring easterners about her adventures in rescuing a slave. Apparently this irony remains well hidden. The first half is great, the second polemical and mean-spirited.
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