Friday, May 23, 2014
Read - One Thousand White Women
by Jim Fergus
'Based on an actual historical event but told through fictional diaries, this is the story of a remarkable woman who travels west in 1875 and marries the chief of the Cheyenne Nation.
One Thousand White Women begins with May Dodd's journey west into the unknown. Yet the unknown is a far better fate than the life she left behind. Committed to an insane asylum by her blue-blooded family for the crime of loving a man beneath her station, May finds that her only hope of freedom is to participate in a secret government program whereby women from the "civilized" world become the brides of Cheyenne warriors. What follows is the story of May's breathtaking adventures: her brief, passionate romance with the gallant young army captain John Bourke; her marriage to the great chief Little Wolf, and her conflict of being caught between two worlds, loving two men, living two lives.
So vividly has Jim Fergus depicted the American West that May Dodd's journals are like a capsule in time.'
I had such high hopes for this book. I first learned of it last year from watching a YouTuber talk about it, and I was hooked. I got the book for Christmas last year and have pushing it aside to get through some other books but a recent reading slump finally had me turning to this one.
To be blunt, I pretty much hated this book. I was so disappointed! Well, it started out promising and interesting. I was quite into it early on, couldn't wait to get through all the early stuff, wanted it to get to where the women are delivered to the 'savages.' Then at some point about a third of the way through I decided to do some Google research because the old west and days of the 'Indians' are areas I know so little about. It all started to fall apart for me then.
It says right up there in the first line of the book's description, 'Based on an actual historical event . . . ' From what I found in my brief research, there is no evidence that Little Wolf or the Cheyenne Nation ever asked the US government for white brides. This kept nagging at me as I tried to read the rest of the book. I see how it's written to show how this *could* have happened and was all hush hush. It all went downhill from there for me.
One of the most annoying problems was there was too much convenience. When May was a child, she learned French, and ohhh how lucky that some of the Cheyenne people spoke a limited amount of French? When May was a child, her father did a lot of hunting, so she was used to being around dead animals, and butchering and skinning. Ohhh, how convenient that this is her way of life now in the west. How convenient that there always seemed to be character that was good at whatever particular thing that needed to be done? How convenient that they'd just happened to bring along some odd piece from home that would miraculously come into play now in their new lives?
May Dodd was annoying as heck. At first she seemed ok, like a strong woman who could make it on her own. As the story went on though, she just became overly perfect and unrealistic. She always did and said exactly the right things. She was the one everyone looked up to and came to and followed. When a rival tribe abducted a bunch of these women, ohhhh it was May Dodd who let herself be raped repeatedly to save a younger girl from having to go through that. When she decided she wanted to go swimming in the mornings with all the men from the village, instead of some drama about a woman learning her place the men just raised an eyebrow and let her do it. I don't know, just everything like that . . . every thing that May did differently was just accepted as change and a step forward. Really? The Cheyenne Nation was so spineless and aimless that one overly perfect white woman (and a bunch of misfits thrown in with her) was able to change the ways of all the people?
How convenient that all the white woman found love with their new Cheyenne husbands. And more so, how convenient that these seemingly hard, unemotional people were now expressing love and openly caring for their new white wives?
May Dodd always speaking up at council meetings and whatnot was freakin' annoying too. Good lord, how did these people manage to survive before she came along? It made Chief Little Wolf (who WAS real) look like a mere visual prop. Oh, he attends the big meetings as a visual representative but this annoying white woman is the one talking and arguing and scolding the white men that are trying to screw the natives? Gah.
All of this fairy tale perfectness seemed to increase as the story went on. By about half way through, I was just skimming pages most of the time, just trying to pick out highlights. The dialogue seemed to grow increasingly annoying too. One of my biggest pet peeves about dialogue in books is when names are attached too often, like of the person one is speaking to.
"That box is red, May."
"No it's not, John."
"If it's not red, May, what is it?"
"John, it's blue."
"That's not blue, May."
"Obviously it is, John."
That is just a silly example off the top of my head, but do you get my point? This book started doing it All. The. Time. GAHHHH!!!!!!
Oh! And how unrealistically convenient that all the white women became pregnant on their shared wedding night?
The writing style irked me too. These were supposed to be journal entries. Early on they did seem more like that, but then like everything else, it all seemed to change. Even though a date was attached and something like 'I haven't written in days . . .' might have been there, the entries became plain old storytelling. Nothing journal-like about them. Either keep it as journals, or tell it all as a story.
So yeah, this was a huge disappoint me for me, as my scattered and crabby attempt at writing a review probably shows.
Have YOU read this book? What did you think?