In July 1897, following the discovery of Klondike gold, four British aristocrats and their Irish servant set out from London to attempt the trek into the gold fields by an exclusively Canadian route. Twenty-three months later, after testing the limits of human endurance, only two men reach their goal. Why another novel (albeit a short one) by Michener about the frozen north so soon after Alaska ( LJ 7/88)? This episode was edited out of Alaska, but Michener, wanting to recount the Canadian role, resurrected it and fleshed it out (one chapter is nothing but British poetry). The plot is thin; the characters shallow; the ending unsatisfying. Only when he is describing terrain does Michener breathe life into this adventure tale. Buy for demand. Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club dual main selection.-- Florence Scarinci, Nassau Community Coll. Lib., Garden City, N.Y.
YA-- This book is a departure from Michener's traditional style of writing long, in-depth, historical sagas featuring one locality. Here he has taken one slice of history, the gold rush of 1897, and shown the courage of five men as they deal with adversity while trying to reach the gold. Four British aristocrats and one Irish servant start their journey in England with visions of finding gold in the wilds of Canada. It begins easily enough, but soon disaster meets them at every turn. Readers will be drawn in by the strong characterizations, the intriguing plot, and the single-minded resolve of these men to reach their dreams. A novel that gives readers a real feel for the frenzy and determination of the men associated with the gold rush--all in less than 250 pages.-- Susan Penny, St. Cecilia's School, Houston
In straightforward, unadorned prose, Michener spins an old-fashioned historical adventure as he follows a British expedition's doomed trek across Canada to the Klondike gold fields in 1897-1899. The group's leader, Lord Evelyn Luton, is an arrogant ass whose colossal stubbornness costs the lives of three of the five men. Totally dissimilar is the party's poet, frail, sensitive Trevor Blythe. Accompanying the four well-bred Englishmen on the journey is a shrewd Irish poacher who acts as the ``servant.'' Besides exploring class tensions, Michener offers insight into how the British viewed their two former colonies--America and Canada--at the turn of the century. But basically this is an absorbing little tale of hubris, courage and redemption (Lutton, humbled by the tragedy, goes on to help Lloyd George rearm England just before WW I), as the dazed adventurers meet Canadian hucksters and friendly Indians, and cope with frozen rivers, mosquitoes, scurvy, dwindling food. In an afterword, Michener explains the germination of this saga, expanded from a section cut from his much longer novel Alaska. Maps. Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club dual main selections. (July)