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I Should Be Extremely Happy in Your Company: A Novel of Lewis and Clark Paperback – December 30, 2003

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (December 30, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142003719
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142003718
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 5.5 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #884,027 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Though it joins a crowded field of Lewis and Clark narratives, this formidable third novel by Hall (The Saskiad) is not to be dismissed. Narrated in multiple distinct voices, this retelling of the story of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark's legendary expedition is less a historical blow-by-blow than an engaging character study of the two men. Hall focuses on a few significant episodes in the journey-such as the hunting accident that wounds Lewis and causes him to sink into his famous depression-as seen through the eyes of Lewis, Sacagawea, Clark and Toussaint Charbonneau, Sacagawea's French fur trader husband. The result is a memorable portrait of the expedition leaders. Lewis is melancholy but ambitious and erudite, worried that he doesn't have the literary skill to render their adventures and discoveries. The sunnier Clark has the sensibility of an artist and the courage of a soldier, but he lacks the fortitude and discipline to build on his advantages. Hall is especially interested in the encounters between Native Americans and white explorers, and he details the violent struggles with Blackfeet Indians and others. Some readers may become frustrated with Sacagawea's stream-of-consciousness narration, in which proper nouns are not capitalized ("she remembered the raids in her own time, the one near beaver's head on blue crow's camp by the blackshoes when two bears' older brother (this one's bigfather), wolf tooth, was killed along with his son, chalk"), but the lyrical and precise prose will reward those who stick with it. In any case, such distractions are minor when measured against the rest of Hall's vivid, enthralling tableau.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Hall starred in the Time cover story on Lewis and Clark, whose famed expedition celebrates its bicentennial in January. Here, the author of The Saskiad uses intimate portraiture to reconstruct the journey.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

I'm sure there must be much better books out there on this subject.
Harriet Chapman
I read the book as quickly as I could just to finish it and get on with more enjoyable, worthwhile reading.
The lyrical language and descriptions in this novel are very good, and heighten the familiar story.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Karl Miller on January 26, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The adventures of William Clark and Merriweather Lewis have long been ample fodder for historical prose. Their expedition is probably the most memorable story of "See America First" type travel, and their triumph in exploring an unknown America has been well documented since the Jefferson era. But never has the story been so personal, nor as involving, as Brian Hall's take on their trek.
"I Should Be..." gets its title from Lewis's actual invitation to Clark to join the Corps of Discovery in exploring an uncharted Western America. The novel imagines the dialogue between the men, along with their native guide Sacagawea and Sacagewea's husband Toussaint Charbonneau, and uses the words of the foursome to propel the story from Washington DC to St. Louis, and then through the great Northwest. It removes the tale from the traditional dry narrative type of historical novel, and gives the characters rich, imagined lives that make the expedition almost personal to the reader.
All books of this type rise and fall on the strength of the cast, and Hall has populated his players with the necessary hopes, despairs and neuroses that would go hand in hand with creating a legendary tale. Lewis's grandeur in his mission and Clark's seeming envy at playing #2 in what was described to him as a mission led by equals are among the many plot devices used by Hall to make allready known charecters take on human form. A hysterical and well imagined portion of the book describing the naming of rivers after Lewis and Clark (where Clark gets the short end of the stick) is only one example of how well this story plays out.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By John W. Warren on March 24, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Though not necessarily an "easy read," I found this novel rich and rewarding, contrary to the experience of some reviewers here. Author Hall imaginatively recasts the amazing, nation-building "expedition of exploration" of Merriweather Lewis and William Clark. In an adventurous literary conceit, he weaves four voices through the narrative: co-captains Lewis and Clark, native American Sacagawea, and French Trader, Toussaint Charbonneau, finding a unique voice, eyes, and ears, for each guide along our journey. The least compelling, in my opinion, is Charbonneau; perhaps the most is Sacagawea, who probably deserved her own novel. Her passages are sometimes difficult to get through, with their lack of "Western" grammar, capitalized proper nouns, and strange punctuation, but they effectively give voice to the voiceless-despite Sacagawea's profile on the new, gold, one-dollar U.S. coin, little is truly known about her nor many other native Americans who figure in our history.
Lewis' and Clark's narrative voices are more straightforward, though no less compelling. Lewis is a tragic figure, who eventually commits suicide. Hall implies, though does not directly state, a latent homosexuality in Lewis, an unrequited love toward Clark that seems to go beyond the "brotherly" love of soldiers in arms. Clark is more confident and assured and seems to bind the voyage together. As I read the novel, I found myself on the voyage, alongside Hall's quartet, imagined much more effectively than any nonfiction account. It helps to be familiar with the story, as many of the voyage's details are left out or implied.
At the beginning of the bicentennial of this phenomenal voyage, "I Should Be Extremely Happy in Your Company" makes a great bookmark with Stephen Ambrose's classic nonfiction account, "Undaunted Courage."
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Tom Blackburn on March 5, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I Should Be Extremely Happy in Your Company is a fine novel and, though it is not intended to be a history text, it is a successful effort to portray humans coping with a rough and unpredictable world during Thomas Jefferson's administration. The use of multiple points of view and multiple styles is a bit surprising when you first encounter it, but the chapters are separate and are clearly labeled. The contrast between fussy-speller Lewis and extrovert Clark is amusing and insightful. I'm not sure American Indians, or Shoshones in particular, talked and thought just the way Hall portrays Sacagawea's inner monologue, but I'm pretty sure they didn't speak or think like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm either, and I give Hall credit for a creative try. We even get some insight into Lewis's faithful dog, though luckily Hall doesn't attempt a doggy stream of consciousness. Near the end, there is a hilarious send-up of Washington Irving that tells us a good deal about America as it was, and America as it would become with the closing of the frontier. I learned a great deal from this book, because it immersed me in a long-gone time. Our country has a rough, brutal, foul-mouthed and heroic history, and you'll end this book with sympathy, insight, sorrow, and admiration for its people. What more do you want?
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By David M. Wyman on October 11, 2004
Format: Paperback
Sometimes I realize at the outset that I'm going to enjoy reading a particular novel. When that happens I like to take my time finishing the book, because I want to savor it; I don't want it to end. In the case of "I Should Be Extremely Happy in Your Company," I took a very long time to reach the final page.

My knowledge about Lewis and Clark - and the people they encountered before, during and after their epic journey - was broad, but not deep. Certainly I learned much about Lewis and Clark, Sacajawea (Tsakakawia), York, and "Charbono." But this book is so much more than a recitation of events and dates. It is a book that both illuminates and speculates about the lives of extraordinary people.

One complaint from other reviews on amazon.com is about the vulgar nature of some of the language used by Sacajawea and and Charbonneau. I can understand some readers' distate of the words Hall puts in the mouths of these charaters. But I think these words are a completely appropriate way to get under the skin of people whose sensibilities were undoubtedly far different than our own. The somewhat non-linear path the book takes it in telling its stories means squeamish readers can skip those chapters that offend them without doing terrible violence to the flow of the book. But that, in my opinion, would be a silly and sad thing to do.

Others have apparently not enjoyed they way Hall allows Sacajawea to describe her world, a way without using standard rules of English grammer or punctuation. For my part, I found this to be one of the joys of the book, because it was, frankly, novel. It took a little work to catch on to the way Sacajawea used language, and then it became an intriguing, unfolding revelation.
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