Cover image for I should be extremely happy in your company : a novel of Lewis and Clark
Title:
I should be extremely happy in your company : a novel of Lewis and Clark
Author:
Hall, Brian, 1959-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Viking, [2003]

©2003
Physical Description:
xi, 419 pages ; 24 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780670031894
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark's expedition to the Pacific Ocean and back in the early part of the nineteenth century is one of the most famous journeys in American history. Previous accounts have largely romanticized the expedition, treating it as a great triumph. But was it? What really went on in the minds of these brave men and those who came with them? Novelist Brian Hall has been interested in Lewis and Clark for years and became convinced that the most effective way to tell their story would be in the intimate, revelatory voice of fiction. Rather than attempt to recount the entire expedition, Hall has chosen instead to probe the psyches of its participants and to focus on some of the more emblematic moments of the journey. His narrative is shaped around and informed by an examination of the collision of white and Native American cultures at that time. To be true to this theme of colliding perspectives, he has written the novel in four voices. The primary one is that of Lewis, the troubled and mercurial figure who found that it was impossible to enter paradise without having it fall around him. The voices of the Shoshone girl Sacagawea, whose courage and resourcefulness helped ensure the expedition's completion; William Clark; and Toussaint Charbonneau, the French fur trader who took Sacagawea as his wife, add further texture to the narrative. On the eve of the two-hundredth anniversary of the Lewis and Clark expedition, Hall has used the novelist's art to produce a compulsively readable book that fills in the gaps and provides a new perspective on this great American story.


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Hall, the author of two previous novels and three works of nonfiction, has delivered a gorgeous historical novel about achievement and angst. Nearly 200 years have passed since Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set off on their expedition to the furthest reaches of the continent, and much ink has been spilled in the name of lionizing these two very different men. Hall's approach is different; while he clearly believes Lewis and Clark--as well as their Shoshone Indian guide Sacagawea--are important historical figures, he also views each as a complex and fascinating individual. Hall presents Lewis, the novel's main character, as a man prone to epic emotional highs and lows of equal magnitude. His journey with Clark was the accomplishment of a lifetime, and Lewis' attempts to deal with the journey's punishing realities are sharply drawn. From its beautifully written prologue to its understated conclusion, Hall's novel is big-hearted and satisfying. Not unlike Cormac McCarthy in his evocative descriptions of the landscape of a young nation, Hall is a versatile writer, and this is a wonderful book. --Kevin Canfield


Publisher's Weekly Review

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. (Jan.) Forecast: Hall's book will be competing with a spate of others commemorating the 200th anniversary of the expedition, but a 12-city author tour should help this stand-out find an audience. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

At first glance, one might question the need for yet another book about intrepid American explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. But as one delves into this book, one realizes that it is less about the adventure and more about the psychic forces that drove the participants to undertake the journey and eventually led to Lewis's untimely death. Hall (The Saskiad) has taken the record as he found it and filled in the gaps, imagining character traits and unrecorded incidents that would seem to provide plausible explanations for some puzzling historical questions. The story is told through four narrative voices-Lewis's, Clark's, Sacajawea's, and that of her fur-trading husband, Toussaint Charbonneau. In each case, Hall tries to capture their unique language and vision and create a real feel for the cultural collision that was occurring. Thus, spellings, grammar, and punctuation vary and names frequently change-reflecting the Native American tendency toward ad hoc descriptives. The result is a compelling if sometimes difficult-to-follow tale that can be well recommended to all fans of serious historical fiction. It is particularly suitable for public libraries, though as a word of caution, it should be pointed out that these Native Americans are not bashful about using graphic terminology to describe natural functions. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/02; the Lewis and Clark expedition celebrates its bicentennial this year.-Ed.]-David W. Henderson, Eckerd Coll. Lib., St. Petersburg, FL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.