I've been reading an awful lot of books that take place in the Dakotas, Nebraska, and Iowa lately. Some of them are pioneer tales, others modern mysteries. I am really curious about the land. I already have the Black Hills of South Dakota on the list of places I want to visit, because my mother was born there. Now I want to see the prairies, too. I know they won't be like the books, they are probably huge corporate farms now, and the little towns won't have dirt roads and aren't little anymore.
Most recently I read "Giants in the Earth" by O.E. Rolvaag. I've been having trouble figuring out what to say about it. Yes, I liked it, could barely put it down, but...I can't express it. I think this part of the introduction explains it. "Rolvaag is primarily interested in psychology, in the unfolding of character; the native American writer is primarily interested in plot and incident. Rolvaag is preoccupied with the human cost of empire building, rather than with its glamour and romance."
I realize that the book is about the people, but I guess I need to see the land more to understand what they were thinking. I need to feel the place. The book is about America but was originally written in Norwegian by Rolvaag, a Norwegian immigrant. The forward and introduction discuss this fact extensively. I wish I knew Norwegian so I could read the original, I think it would make a difference.
I've been struggling for days to write this and I'm not sure why. It's not because the story and ending are quite harsh, it's because of the characters. Beret is ill-suited to the hardships of pioneer life, and deals with it with religious fervor. Her husband knows of her depression, doesn't understand it, and that's it. I guess I can't relate to that kind of marriage or situation. And the concept of empire building and taming the earth. I just have a different point of view about that.