From the Bookshelf: Woodsburner

I finished reading Woodsburner last week by John Pipkin.


The book's premise centers around the moment in time when Henry David Thoreau (of Walden writing fame) and a friend accidentally burned down a huge tract of wooded land outside of Concord during an abnormally dry bit of weather.  The fire spread rapidly and almost reached Concord, where it would have destroyed the town.  The fire was fought by locals - townspeople and farmers, as well as Thoreau himself.

In theory, this is the kind of historial fiction I'd like.  The sort of thing where there's a moment in time expanded on and brought to life.  Sadly, I didn't feel this book did that.  First off, this author used what I call my "word of the day calendar" approach to writing.  Does an author feel like the book is more educated-sounding if you use a bunch of big words?  I dunno, but if big words are your thing, there are plenty of them in this book.  I don't have a problem using big words necessarily - in fact, I think the use of "like" is overdone in our society - but be that as it may, I don't feel you, the author, need to toss in some of those every paragraph or so to let me know how educated you are.  If you're smart enough to write a good book, that's enough for me.  I don't need to know you have an extensive vocabulary to throw out randomly.  Use it wisely, grasshopper.

Secondly, the plot revolves around 4 characters:  Thoreau, a local merchant who has come up from Boston to look at a storefront to expand into in Concord with his book-selling business, a mad man of the cloth (who is also in the grips of a opium addiction), and a immigrant hired man working for a local farmer.  Now I haven't lived through any of the 19th century (although the author hasn't either), but these 4 men have OODLES of time to stand around and think deep thoughts.  I can't imagine anyone having the time in amongst just living one's life in this era to mull over things as much as these 4 guys do.  A plethora of verbiage inside their heads and not a whole lot happening.

Meh.  I finished this because I have issues about not finishing books I start, and I kept hoping for redemption in the last chapter, but neither Thoreau or I got it here. Not one I'd recommend.

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