Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Review: The Year We Were Famous

The Year We Were Famous
By Carole Estby Dagg
Published 2011 by Clarion Books

With their family house and farm facing foreclosure, Clara and her mother need to come up with a lot of money - fast. So, when Clara off-handedly suggests they undergo an adventure like her heroine, Nellie Bly, her mother latches onto the idea. And that's how Clara finds herself walking straight across the United States...

I received a hardcover copy of this at ALA Annual last year and thought it sounded right up my alley - a historical novel about some intrepid women, setting out on adventure and trying to prove themselves. It spoke to the Little House on the Prairie-loving part of myself. When I realized that the book was based on the story of the author's ancestors, I became even more intrigued. Finally, the timing was right and I devoured this book. It's a very quick read - short chapters break down the long journey undertaken by the Estby women. Clara is our narrator and I found her very engaging. While some of her issues and struggles may seem old-fashioned to today's teens, much of what she is going through will still resonate. I found her romantic entanglements amusing and realistic. I enjoyed reading about Helga through Clara's eyes and found her an interesting character, particularly the frank attitude she adopted regarding some of their more dangerous escapades. While I enjoyed the story, I wasn't blown away by the book. It's written well enough, but it's not anything fancy. I'm not surprised to discover the author is a librarian - it's well-researched but not overly showy. At times, I wished Dagg had expanded her narrative a bit, but I still enjoyed reading.

Thanks to the publisher for a hardcover copy.

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