Friday, October 03, 2014

The Rush: America's Fevered Quest for Fortune, 1848-1853 by Edward Dolnick

Oh great, the car has a flat tire so now I’ll have to miss my massage therapy appointment. The frozen entree I purchased recommends cooking it in the oven for 60 minutes, not the usual 5 minutes in the microwave I’m used to – I’ll starve having to wait that long. My smartphone needs charging, so how will I be able to update my Facebook status? Oh the horror! How will I survive such calamities?

Let’s be honest, these are the type of things we consider hardships in our 21st century world. For the thousands of Americans that made the arduous trek to California searching for fortune during the Gold Rush era our “burdens” would be considered laughable and viewed as nothing more than an inconvenience at best. From the pioneering spirit characterized in The Rush a story emerges of true hardship-conquering. It is one filled with hope, adventure, risk-taking, disappointment, fortitude, and tenacious determination.

Combing the diary and journal entries from a handful of the numerous men and the occasional woman who made that dauntless journey west via land and sea, Dolnick transforms a period in American history from one that most often is reported in a strictly factual manner into one that paints a more personal and intimate portrait. He gleans the emotions, sentiments and observations from the written experiences of these individuals and fluidly incorporates them into a descriptively rich prose providing a broader understanding of this extraordinary time period.

As Dolnick interestingly points out, the majority of those who so diligently panned for gold did not find the fortune they came seeking. But what so many did discover was a sense of independence their former lives could not offer. This book successfully imparts to the reader an appreciation of not only the fervor demonstrated by the forty-niners to strike it rich but also the adversity they faced and the mettle it required to surmount it.

In addition to The Rush, also check the VBPL catalog for Edward Dolnick’s fascinating book, The Forger’s Spell: A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the Greatest Art Hoax of the Twentieth Century.

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