Thursday, August 3, 2017

Audio Book Review: Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati

Length: 30 hours and 17 minutes
Pub. Date: August 3, 1998
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Narrator: Kate Reading
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Weaving a tapestry of fact and fiction, Sara Donati's epic novel sweeps us into another time and place...and into the heart of a forbidden affair between an unconventional Englishwoman and an American frontiersman. It is December of 1792. Elizabeth Middleton leaves her comfortable English estate to join her family in a remote New York mountain village. It is a place unlike any she has ever experienced. And she meets a man unlike any she has ever encountered - a white man dressed like a Native American, Nathanial Booner, known to the Mohawk people as Between-Two-Lives. Determined to provide schooling for all the children of the village, she soons finds herself locked in conflict with the local slave owners as well as her own family. Interweaving the fate of the Mohawk Nation with the destiny of two lovers, Sara Donati's compelling novel creates a complex, profound, passionate portrait of an emerging America." 

Elizabeth Middleton is pushing 30 years old and the year is 1792. She's unmarried and for the time period this makes her a spinster.  She has left England behind along with her brother, Julian, to go to upstate New York. Her father is a judge there and has a lot of land. Perhaps she can start over? She has the hope to start a school and educate the children of Paradise, New York.  Enter stage left, Nathaniel Bonner, who is a white man, but is a member of the Mohawk tribe. For some strange reason, she feels an attraction towards him despite her father's wishes.  You see her father has set her up with the town doctor, Richard Todd, but it isn't because Richard is a great guy. There's definitely some secrets that her father is withholding.  Even though Elizabeth is a grown woman, can she defy her father and show an interest in another man and on top of that a man who is practically a Native American? Sara Donati's Into the Wilderness is quite a long audio book, but various parts of it kept me on the edge of my seat.  Fans of historical fiction as well as The Last of the Mochians will enjoy this the most.

Originally I started the audio book of Into the Wilderness because so many people said since I love Outlander and since I am a fan of historical fiction, this book shouldn't be missed.  I went into it thinking it would knock my socks off like Outlander did, but that is not the case. Mostly because Elizabeth is a pain in the butt. She can be stubborn and determined, like Claire Fraser, but lacks that oomph or je ne sais quoi to really set her apart. Elizabeth could be too prim and proper at times, which made me roll my eyes.  Her obsession with starting a school and really having no experience teaching or working with kids also made me cringe. I mean does she just think she will be successful, because she is educated and a white privileged female living amongst country folk and Native Americans? I did appreciate how accepting she was of the Native Americans, but her insta-love attraction to Nathaniel was a bit too much at times.  

And that leads me to Nathaniel. I am a fan of Nathaniel in Into the Wilderness. He is one of the main reasons I continued with the audio book.  I appreciated his back story and his personality the most.  Keep in mind he is no Jamie Fraser from Outlander though; I know many people compared him to Jamie and that is just not the case, so don't go into it thinking that.  

But Into the Wilderness isn't just a romance. There's a lot of action and adventure. There's also the issue of prejudice, women's rights, and of course there's a ton of family drama between Elizabeth, her father, and her brother.  

I will say that the setting is fantastic in Into the Wilderness. Donati truly brought upper state New York during the late 1700s to life.  I enjoyed her descriptions of the woods, the houses, the town of Paradise, and how the Native Americans lived.  Apparently, Into the Wilderness is a spin-off of The Last of the Mohicans (movie version!), so if you are familiar with the movie, you'll appreciate this book the most. 

Regarding the audio book, I just thought it was ok. The narrator is Kate Reading and her voice for Elizabeth sort of got on my nerves and I found it too proper and grating at times.  Other than that, I enjoyed her take on the other characters and her descriptions of the natural world. But be forewarned, it was soooo darn long. It took me forever to finish it and I am not sure that Donati needed the story to be that long.  

Into the Wilderness is part of a series and while I found this audio book to be a nice way to pass time while doing mundane tasks or exercising, I don't think I will be continuing with the series. I liked it well enough, but for me to start a new series, I am looking for something extraordinary.


  1. I enjoyed it mostly because of the setting and time period, but from what I recall, I agree on your very valid points. While Elizabeth is not all together lovable, there was something compelling about how she struggled to stay true to herself. Thanks for reviewing. It's been awhile, so I don't recall the narrator.

    1. I'm glad you agree, Debra! Yes, I agree about that regarding Elizabeth. She definitely did stay true to herself despite the odds lined up against her. Thanks for visiting!

  2. 30 plus hours, that's a commitment! I haven't read this but I'm reading The Gilded hour now which I think is a sequel... maybe. I'm really enjoying the Gilded Hour which centers a two female doctors in NYC is 1883.

    1. I know, right? It took me over a month and a half to get through it. Ohh! I haven't heard of The Gilded Hour, but that sounds more my speed. I'll have to check it out. I like the time period of 1883. Thanks for dropping by, Beth!

  3. This sounds pretty problematic. Sorry it didn't live up to expectations. I don't think I'd like it either. I especially doubt I'd like the portrayal of the Mohawk people. Thanks for your review! It will save me some time :) I'm impressed you stuck with it!

    1. That's a good point, Christina. I am not sure they were portrayed accurately; however, nothing really happened to make me upset about their portrayal. It was my first audio book, so I was determined to stick with it. It wasn't a horrible story by any means, but not my favorite. Thanks for visiting!


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