Pin It
Favorite

Book Review 

by Ann M. Colford


The journey of the Corps of Discovery, under the leadership of


Lewis and Clark, is one of the most repeated tales in American history, especially now as its bicentennial approaches. But evidence from primary sources can only tell part of the story. The tantalizing task of filling in the blanks is undertaken by Brian Hall in his new novel, I Should Be Extremely Happy In Your Company.


As a novelist, Hall permits his imagination to fill in the undocumented aspects of the journey. Why were Lewis's journals so full of factual observations and yet nearly devoid of human emotion? Was Clark really the easy-going co-captain that history has assumed? And what led Lewis to take his own life three years after the Corps' return?


Hall unfolds his story in four voices: Lewis, Clark, Sacagawea and Charbonneau, the French trader who took Sacagawea as his wife. The primary voice belongs to Lewis, whose interior life Hall examines in depth. Despite his achievements, Lewis battled loneliness, depression and self-doubt. This Lewis tends toward gallows humor, especially during his inglorious return face-down in a boat after an accidental gunshot wound in his buttock.


Clark's telling is far more prosaic and pragmatic, and yet Hall's Clark has his share of internal conflicts, from his awareness of his status as a junior officer to his contradictory feelings toward his manservant/slave, York.


Hall wanders farthest from history when he speaks for Sacagawea and Charbonneau, but the result is worthwhile. Charbonneau speaks in a stew of simple English and transliterations, but the old trader emerges as a wily explorer who knows more than his captains. With Sacagawea's voice, Hall brings an aboriginal consciousness to the events. Hers is the most direct, unsullied voice, focused on her immediate perceptions and her recollection of the legends of her people.


Hall clearly has done his homework. He sees his novel as but one version of the story and he recognizes the freedom that he, as a novelist, has to tell it. Hall has created a new lens through which to view the Corps of Discovery. For a story two centuries old, that's no small achievement.





Publication date: 02/20/03

  • Pin It

Latest in News

  • Odds And Ends
  • Odds And Ends

    Idaho lawmakers are pulled in lots of directions; plus, SPD weighs a "culture audit"
    • Mar 25, 2015
  • Four Days A Week
  • Four Days A Week

    Idaho schools that dropped one day a week from their schedule are saving a little money — but at what cost?
    • Mar 25, 2015
  • A County Ombudsman?
  • A County Ombudsman?

    Weighing the costs and benefits of oversight at the Spokane County Sheriff's Office
    • Mar 25, 2015
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri
Opening Day for Trails

Opening Day for Trails @ Spokane

Sat., March 28

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Ann Colford

Most Commented On

  • Why Idaho kids don't go to college

    And what that means for the Gem State
    • Mar 4, 2015
  • New Blood

    Candidates are launching bids for Spokane City Council and could bring big changes to city government
    • Mar 18, 2015
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment

Briefs


Comment


marijuana


Publisher's Note


long reads


© 2015 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation