Candlewick Press

November 2020

$39.99 AUD

400p hb

ISBN: 978-0763663247

The Snow Fell Three Graves Deep: voices from the Donner Party

Allan Wolf

from Walker Books...

In 1846, a group of emigrants bound for California face a choice: continue on their planned route or take a shortcut into the wilderness. Eighty-nine of them opt for the untested trail, a decision that plunges them into danger and desperation and, finally, the unthinkable. From extraordinary poet and novelist Allan Wolf comes a riveting retelling of the ill-fated journey of the Donner party across the Sierra Nevadas during the winter of 1846Ė1847. Brilliantly narrated by multiple voices, including world-weary, taunting, and all-knowing Hunger itself, this novel-in-verse examines a notorious chapter in history from various perspectives, among them caravan leaders George Donner and James Reed, Donnerís scholarly wife, two Miwok Indian guides, the Reed children, a sixteen-year-old orphan, and even a pair of oxen. Comprehensive back matter includes an authorís note, select character biographies, statistics, a time line of events, and more. Unprecedented in its detail and sweep, this haunting epic raises stirring questions about moral ambiguity, hope and resilience, and hunger of all kinds.

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 In this historical novel told in a multitude of voices, using both verse and prose, Allan Wolf tells the devastating story of the Donner Party travelling across America in 1846. This historical event, one most likely unknown to Australian readers, is meticulously researched and although fiction is based on available materials. Travelling west in wagons to seek fortune and lands in California George Donner along with several families and farmers plot their way along the route. Attempting to take a short-cut proved to be disastrous leading to shocking results. With blizzards, stock loss, desertion and poor decisions starvation is soon their companion. In fact, one of the characters telling the story is Hunger and through this narrative some truly disturbing facts emerge.

This tragic tale where over half the group did not survive is told in a multitude of voices, which can be a little confusing to keep up with but is nonetheless compelling. The desperation of the people, the bleakness of the situation and the relentlessness of the weather is explored face on, and the reader is left feeling many emotions whilst reading, from sheer horror to exhilaration. The extensive notes at the back are a most welcome addition and provide further information about the actual people and their circumstances. An outstanding book from Allan Wolf.

Stephen, Canberra

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