A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains
In 1872, Isabella Bird, daughter of a clergyman, set off alone to the Antipodes 'in search of health' and found she had embarked on a life of adventurous travel. In 1873, wearing Hawaiian riding dress, she rode her horse through the American Wild West, a terrain only newly opened to pioneer settlement. The letters that make up this volume were first published in 1879. They tell of magnificent, unspoiled landscapes and abundant wildlife, of encounters with rattlesnakes, wolves, pumas and grizzly bears, and her reactions to the volatile passions of the miners and pioneer settlers. A classic account of a truly astounding journey.
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I downloaded and listened to a Libravox recording, excellently read. Apart from the social and historical interest the work has very considerable literary merit and is honestly self-reflective. Quite a sharp social commentator unless it is on persons of native American, African, Chinese or other than Western European origin. The racism is extreme but the norm at the time. The comments only appear in terms of direct observation in letter one which raises the question of whether frontiers were lily white - those drafty log cabins were not shared with persons of colour. Not even as servants. Interesting.
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