Saturday, March 6, 2010

Impatient With Desire?

"You shouldn't have to work so hard to read a book.", my friend told me, when I told her about my frustration in reading Impatient With Desire.

Ms Burton seemed to be trying to get SO much information in this novel that it made it a muddle to try and read.

The journal entries themselves were hard to follow. Many entries seemed to be talking about several different periods of time within the same entry and it wasn't always clear (to me) when. There were many lists of people, far too many to keep track of in this fairly slim volume. While I was reading I repeatedly referred back to previous entries, trying to figure out who was who and when something was happening or had happened.

Ms. Burton's goal was to help readers have a better understanding of pioneers, as well as get a glimpse into one woman's heroic journey. In this she (at least partially) succeeded. There were some exquisite and evocative passages in the book, describing their lives in Illinois before leaving for California, Tamsen's fierce longing to travel and be part of the western migration, her love for her husband and children, as well as of the horrors they endured during those four and half months in the mountains.

I loved some of the individual passages in this book. Reader friendly? Not so much.


  1. I was seeking out reviews, and yours is the only one who says this, so I'm surprised and think you're being too harsh on this one. I just finished the book and found it profoundly moving. As a mom, I thought -- gosh, what would I do?! I enjoyed having something that made my brain work too. No, it's not all laid out for you linearly, but it all wraps up so well (things echo and come back), so it's worth the work. And -- as you say -- the writing is "exquisite and evocative," and the crafting of this novel, truly a work of art. I heard the review on NPR last week, which made me go get it, and I have to say I agree with Maureen Corrigan on NPR, who said it's the "literary equivalent of El Dorado (the city of lost gold)." How many books are about women's experiences, really? It's so refreshing to actually read one that captures all the thoughts, desires, hopes, fears that run through a mom's mind...

  2. Harsh? My experience reading the book was what it was. I did enjoy some lovely passages in it, but overall it didn't work for me. (And I'm a mom.)

    I'm sure that the author (who was most gracious in her comments on this blog) doesn't have anything to worry about from my comments, given all the glowing reviews the book has received.