Eileen F. (Ephrata, WA)
Savage Lands is a historical page turning novel of France's attempt to settle and claim the Louisiana territory. Her main characters, Elizabeth a casket girl, and Auguste a poor cabin boy, developed into very strong characters. It is a story of hope, survival, betrayal, fear, and strength. The history of the slaves, the local Indian tribes, the attempt to cultivate the land,and the other immigrants, all held my attention.
Clark's prose is at times almost poetic. She keeps the drama of her story flowing by intricately weaving parts of the present into future chapters. Her author's notes at the end of the book were very informative. They detailed the actual history of the time. Clark now has me hooked, I will have to read her other novels.
Constance S. (Sacramento, CA)
Clare Clark's prose is exquisite in this very intricately woven tale of life in the early 1700's Louisiana Territory when France began its settlement among the Chikasaw and Choctaw Indians.The three main characters, Elisabeth,Jean Claude and Auguste are very human with their virtues and frailties.The love scenes are sensuous but muted. The descriptions of primitive living by the settlers puts us there with them thanks to the research and skillful writing of the author, who, by the way lightens the pages with sprinkles of humor.
This historical fiction brings to mind Cold Mountain and Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier. Savage Lands is a totally satisfying read for lovers of good literature.
Sande O. (Rochester, NY)
Riveting and Thought-provoking Read
Clare Clark takes the reader into a very primitive land in her historical novel, Savage Lands. This is not the Louisiana of the antebellum South, this is the pioneer land of 18th century French, English and Native American combatants. The initial background is the French effort to "civilize" settlement of the frontier by sending "casket wives" to the territory and it ends with the Louisiana Bubble, an economic disaster.
Throughout the well-researched narrative we follow the lives of women caught in the drama of settlement, love, betrayal and survival. It is reminiscent in many ways of novels coming out of third world countries today: women's lives playing against a much larger backdrop they cannot control.
Altogether a riveting and thought-provoking read.
Mary M. (Lexingtin, KY)
I finished this book not liking the characters very much and without a clear picture or understanding of the time period. One thing I really did not like was that the author moved the story forward too quickly. For instance the main female character was on the boat and then she was married. No explanation of what happened in between. I needed a bit more background and story development. I kept expecting to get a real insight into the time period and the people, but I never did. Something was missing.
Mary D. (Watertown, NY)
I love learning about little known areas of America's past. And there's no more enjoyable way to do this than through the eyes of a good author. Here, Clare Clark has brought to life a slice of Louisiana's story you probably won't read in many history texts. You'll see, smell and feel the country as it was. It's a story rich with emotions that will have you wishing to comfort some characters and give others the boot. All things considered, it was a satisfying read that will have me seeking other books by Clark.
Anne G. (Austin, TX)
An interesting depiction of the early days of Louisiana, this book delivered little known facts of history and an interesting story. The story was related by an omniscient narrator and thus seemed somewhat distant and ethereal while at the same time giving the reader intimate knowledge of the characters’ fears, pain, sorrow, and grief.
Prior to reading this book I was unaware of the 'casket girls' and the role they played in the population and development of Louisiana. It is hard to imagine the thought of a young girl heading to America with the intent to sell herself to a husband in the New World.
The information about the Native American tribes was also interesting but not well integrated into the story with the exception of the characters Okatomih/Jeanne and little Marguerite, by far my favorite character in the story.
I think this book provides plenty of topics for a good book club discussion and I'm now intrigued to read more by this author.
Brenda D. (Lincoln, CA)
Clare Cook's novel, Savage Lands, depicts a time and setting that is certainly aptly titled. She brings a fascinating picture of a part of U.S. history that is probably little known to most of us outside of the Louisiana area. During the early 1700's, it was a very primitive area and life was incredibly difficult for everyone, especially the women. The main character of the story, a "casket girl," was treated as a commodity, much like the food, supplies, and wine that were furnished by the French government to the male settlers. It is a story of passionate, unexpected love, intense friendship, betrayal, and ultimately survival.
However, I didn't particularly like the style of writing. To me, there were too many descriptive sentences. "The white moon was bandaged in gauzy cloud." This is an example of the style throughout the book, and I found it very distracting.
That being said, I think there are many areas within the story that will provide good discussion material for book groups.