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Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West Paperback – April 24, 2012
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Woodruff's granddaughter, Dorothy Wickenden, tells the story of these two individuals who were brought together for nine months in Elkland, Colorado. A portrait emerges of two worlds in 1916--the predictable, comfortable life in the upper-class society of the industrialized East Coast and the remote, hardscrabble life on the western frontier. The author breathes life into the stories of men and women on the frontier by researching and reconstructing Dorothy Woodruff's letters and memorabilia.
This book is a fascinating glimpse into the social milieu of the period, along with insight into the personal lives of two families of considerable social standing in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. The story has it all: romance, intrigue, adventure, politics and family histories. At times the narrative reads like a mini-series on the history of upstate New York with accounts of notable suffragettes, abolitionists, and politicians. Auburn, NY has a proud history as a hub of political reformers and a hotbed for social justice. Wickenden characterizes the town as a world where "Sons and daughters inherited their elders' names and their fortunes." I felt as though I came to know Dorothy Wickenden's charming grandmother through her own words.Read more ›
As a historical work, Nothing Daunted was comprehensive but not always compelling. For example, I thought the descriptions of some of the peripheral characters were too detailed. As a memoir, the main characters were a bit one-dimensional, they went here and there, seeing and doing this and that, but without any sense of their emotional reactions.
That last point is what I found most daunting about this book. I didn't connect emotionally with any of the main characters, although the schoolchildren, esp. Tommy Jones' crying about having received no sweater, were more compelling. I wondered if the girls ever got depressed about their circumstances (waking up in the morning wearing a light dusting of snow)? Did they feel sad about leaving their students after that wonderful year? Were they ever moved by the contrast between their students' poverty as compared to their own affluence?
It must be difficult to insert imagined emotion into the characters of historical figures, but since the author imagined other unknowable aspects, I believe it wouldn't have undermined the integrity of the work to have interjected this for the sake of the story. However, if the main mission of the book was to describe the landscape of the era, it succeeded very well.
There was a lot of history given not only about our heroines, but also Colorado and the railroad there. Some of this was a bit dry to read. However, once the story in Colorado began in earnest, I was thoroughly engaged. I did not want to put the book down. I even found myself cheering for one potential suitor over another. You can clearly feel the personalities of the people coming through. Their stories have some interesting twists and turns, and I was so surprised by some things that happened. More than anything though, I felt like these were two women I could have been friends with. They lived their lives on their terms, and they were able to have some amazing adventures in the process. I think we could all stand to learn to take all the opportunities in our live with equal excitement. This was a great book, and I hope many people will take a chance to read it.
Galley provided by publisher for review.
Despite that, I pushed through the book because I was so deeply interested in Dorothy and Ros. I wanted to know about their lives after the year in Elkhead, too. But the `wrap up' in the book's final pages is equally unsatisfying.
I wanted to love this book. I'm glad I read it, but it really doesn't do service to the lives of these brave women. It's not a book I'll add to my library. This one gets passed along. Perhaps someone else will enjoy it more than I.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I have not read a lot of it. Back in the 1970s I was on a trip to Colorado and it was recommended that I go visit Ferrie Carpenter. We drove clear across Colorado to meet him. Read morePublished 16 hours ago by Eugene Nelson
I absolutely loved this book for providing context of the lives of the two privileged young ladies who left their lives of leisure to go out west and teach school under adverse and... Read morePublished 16 days ago by Angelina
Must reading for everyone who moves to Colorado - history is alive. Once read you will not complain about snow storms ever again.Published 29 days ago by Andrew Short
I was disappointed in the book. Great story line, but very poorly written. Confusing and went off topic.Published 2 months ago by Mary Carol
Gave to my mother who loves books. She hated this book and gave it to the library to sell. Save your money!Published 2 months ago by P. robb
Amazing true story of a very amazing woman--very interesting read. Good glimpse of what life was like for a young woman out west over a hundred years ago.Published 3 months ago by PenguinMom