Sunday, November 8, 2009

Review: A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains by Isabella Bird

Isabella Bird was an inveterate traveller, naturalist, and writer. This might not be an unusual description for women today but Bird was all of these things in the mid-nineteenth century, a time when women's lives were far more constrained than they are today. She chronicled many of her travels in letters home to her sister before they were published in collections.

This particular collection of letters details Bird's long journeying through the Rocky Mountains, into the heart of the land, often unaccompanied, only choosing her routes based on her preference of the moment and always willing to deviate from the plan. She wrote beautiful descirptions of a time and place much changed today, appreciating the remote wildness she found on many of her tramps. In addition to her natural writings, she also turned her eye on the people who inhabited these lonely, majestic places as well and her character depictions are delightful. She has captured the character of the folks who chose to eke out a living homesteading in the shadows and valleys of these majestic mountains, capturing the fortitude, the sometime lawlessness, the hospitality, and the suspicions of her hosts and acquaintances.

Make no mistake that this is a modern day account. It is very much rooted in its time and it takes a little adjustment to Bird's language and writing to get into the book. But once in the story, the reader will happily accompany her on her meanderings, oftentimes in awe of her determination. The writing flowed clearly and smoothly along and I'll probably try searching out more of her straightforward and appealing travelogues. I may not have to suffer the discomforts she did in traveling but the romanticism of her journey, even when she encounters difficulties, is unbeaten.


  1. I get your posts in my inbox and so even though I NEVER leave a comment on your site, I wanted you to know that I faithfully read all of your columns. :-)

    Anyway, I decided to break my commenting silence and tell you that my English teacher at college is writing her master thesis on this book. Apparently, back when she was getting her bachelors, she had to read this book for one of her classes, and she just fell in love with it. She's since read all of the books written by Isabella Bird and then of course chose this book to do her master thesis on. So I'm thinking that this must be quite the book, and as soon as this semester ends, I will be checking it out of the library and reading it myself.

    Thanks for writing this review - it was neat to see this book profiled on here. :-)


  2. Hava--So nice to see your name in my in-box. I keep waiting to see your reviews popping up again. I don't remember what inspired me to pick this book up, but it was really a wonderful surprise once I dived into it. I hope you enjoy it too.

  3. Wow what a beautiful review Kristen, you have me wanting to pick up a book I wouldn't normally read & one I actually havent heard of. Thanks.

    btw there's some blog love waiting for you at my place. You can pick it up at The Eclectic Reader

  4. this sounds like a delightful read and a good one for becky's challenge. i still have to figure out what to pick for it.


I have had to disable the anonymous comment option to cut down on the spam and I apologize to those of you for whom this makes commenting a chore. I hope you'll still opt to leave me your thoughts. I love to hear what you think, especially so I know I'm not just whistling into the wind here at my computer.

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