Review: Forth to the Wilderness, Dale van Every

History, Literature

Rating: 3 out of 5

This was a book I picked up primarily to satisfy my interest in the American frontier. Unsurprisingly, it only met some of these goals. Why unsurprisingly? We’re dealing with a book first published in the early ’60’s, and as such both some of the views the author might have are repudiated by more recent historiography but also much of the prose was inestimably bad. That being said, a critical mind and a willingness to drudge through some less-than-ideal narrative does give a fairly good account of the pre-Revolutionary War years.

A lot of this book also touches upon ‘character building’ and many other intangibles. While it is not doubt true that Britain’s decisions on how to interact with the nations on the borders of their colonies played a great role in what those colonists thought, I found the author’s willingness to qualify these very thoughts and actions as too fanciful. It is easy to build a castle in the sky and if we really want to see something in the past, we can find it there. Also, the way Mr van Every’s statements often relied on ‘spirit’ over other more tangible quantities allowed him to write the narrative he wanted while ignoring other causalities.

However, there is also some good in this — the structure of the book is character-based, meaning that the reader follows one of the great movers for a chapter before being allowed to catch up with what one of the other guys was doing. It should also be stated that while much of the narrative is dull, Mr van Every did try to enliven all of the ‘action scenes’. The skirmishes he describes, therefore, are considerably more fun to read than the rest of the book and this period in history does have plenty of skirmishes.

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