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10 thoughts on “O Beulah Land

  1. says:

    So imagine the movie The VVitch taking place about a 100 years later, and in western Virginia border of Ohio territory instead There s still lots of fear and anxiety but there s no witch Not even a little witch.This novel comes from a collection of novels by a novelist most including me until about a year or so ago from West Virginis named Mary Lee Settle One of those novelists who spends her entire career at a university, even wins some awards, but maybe doesn t have the cultural impact of someone much known.This novel cycle, and cycle is the right word because they don t feel quite fully formed novels in terms of plots, follows the loose threads of a family starting during the Cromwell s rebellion into pre Revolutionary America, and then beyond I imagine I will read the others eventually, if not exactly soon.They re an interesting historical companion, and the writing is very strong, but this book at least was a bit of a drag It s told in dialect, mostly, and the narration is largely atmospheric and impressionistic atmosphere luckily so you feel ensconced in the setting, but there s not THAT much story The story itself is about a small set of neighbors and community members looking to incorporate land in what is now West Virginia.or based on the names Virginia and West Virginia.The appeal for me is that it s a very Virginia novel, and I have loved those since I was younger This particular novel is full of family names and place names that are very familiar to me.Here s a sample A little dry dust fanned up from the hard beaten path to Jeremiah Catlett s cabin Here it seemed on fine, pounded yellow dirt, there on bare rocks which through the years of scuffing up the path, had been exposed, the ground packed hard around them.Jeremiah s dragging left foot no longer quite left the ground when he walked It made a thin, indented trail in summer dust And so on.

  2. says:

    The truth is that I did not read the whole book I did not even read most of it.I read the first book in the Beulah Quintet, Prisons, first A member of my Significant Other s family picked up a used copy of it and gave it to me in a book exchange I don t remember what book I gave her It took me most of a year to get around to reading it, but once I started it I ended up getting completely absorbed in what turned out to be an amazing piece of literature I decided I needed to read the rest of the Beulah Quintet based on the strength of that one book, and thought that Mary Lee Settle must be an incredibly talented author O Beulah Land is the second book in the quintet, so of course that book would come next in the series.I finally got around to picking up O Beulah Land It was difficult to get into the book The language was overwrought at first, purple and ponderously cryptic The floweriness of it eventually started to recede, but the crypticness of the narrative style only increased The author s style in this book lent itself to utterly failing to convey information necessary to understand character motivations, chains of causation, or why the reader picked up the book in the first place Where Prisons managed to use the oft fumbled literary device of flashbacks to establish and enrich a deeply involving story with a masterful touch, O Beulah Land basically just feels like a jumble of events hacked together in the order in which the author imagined them without any particular sense of chronology or relevance I m reasonably sure she manages to tie things together by the end of the book, but frankly I do not feel particularly motivated to find out It is already an interminable slog under a hundred pages into the book about a quarter of the way through , and I know for a fact there are far better books waiting in my reading list for my attention.I thought I would give this thing another couple chapters before giving up on it, but then my Significant Other and I started scouring the web for reviews of the five books in the series I began to get a hint of how this book could seem so much worse than Prisons when we pieced together when these books were written It turns out that the order in which the author wrote the five books in the quintet was Part 2 this book , Part 3, Part 1, Part 4, and Part 5 On closer inspection, we found that O Beulah Land was written about seventeen years before Prisons Seventeen years is a long time It seems the author, Mary Lee Settle, matured a heckuva lot as an author in those seventeen years.Adding to my understanding of what I am or am not likely to enjoy about these books is the fact that, looking at the subject matter of the various books, Prisons is an aberration in the series Parts two through five are about somewhat distant generations of descendants linked to a particular patch of land in the United States southeast, from before the American Revolution up to the twentieth century though the information about the actual setting and plot of part five of the series, The Killing Ground, is maddenly scant on the Internet to the point that I wonder if than fifty people have ever read that novel Prisons, meanwhile, is the fictionally very personal perspective of a single everyman soldier on the treacherous events central to the final disposition of Cromwell s war against monarchy in seventheenth century England, carrying both a deeply authentic feel for the circumstances of the protagonist and an emerging philosophical understanding of how the dramatic acts of Great Men force troubling weight upon the lives of those unrecognized in our historical records.In short, where Prisons seems a valuable, thoughtful, impressive work of literary genius, the first quarter of O Beulah Land comes across as a fatuous, self indulgent exercise in the trite pursuit of writing some stereotypical Great American Novel, falling well short of that mark in large part because of its trite hubris The fact Prisons appears to have been written as little than a way to provide some kind of background context, or bookending prelude, to the rest of this seemingly self conscious attempt to produce an epic generational saga seems to have spared it the overblown feel of O Beulah Land I rather suspect the third book in the series, itself about thirteen years older than Prisons, would likewise be relatively awful, serving as the final nail in the coffin for my interest in finishing O Beulah Land, because I am uninterested in finishing one bad book just to read another that might aspire to the dizzying heights of mere mediocrity It is possible the fourth and fifth books are better, but I will not hold my breath, nor read two books that are likely intolerably dull and frustrating to read to get there, and haven t much interest in skipping forty percent of a series just to see if the last forty percent is any good.Screw it I have better things to do with my time I still heartily recommend Prisons, but would warn any curious readers away from O Beulah Land.

  3. says:

    Very fine and beautifully written novel about 1760s through 1770s America prior to the Revolutionary War Several of the main characters were English who were convicted of minor crimes and sent to the colonies as punishment Highly recommend this book.

  4. says:

    I first encountered O BEULAH LAND when my history professor at U.Va., Stephen Innes, assigned it for his Colonial America class It was the only piece of fiction he assigned, and he said he did so because it illustrated ways of living and thinking and striving in colonial Virginia better than many non fiction works He was absolutely right.I read a great deal of historical fiction, and O BEULAH LAND is one of the best examples of immersing readers fully in another time and place Settle makes the reader feel at home despite unabashed use of period language and a refusal to sugarcoat unsavory aspects of the past The reader comes to understand why colonists hungered so deeply for land and were willing to risk so much to push westward despite royal prohibitions, the lack of effective civil governance, and the anger of the Indians on whose land they were encroaching.To achieve this immersion, she tells parallel and intersecting stories of several settlers representing a wide range of backgrounds and personalities the French and Indian war veteran seeking to establish himself as a large landowner, his wife and children who may not be prepared for a move to the frontier, an evangelistic backwoodsman and his wife who escaped indentured servitude, a scholar who becomes a frontier printer and schoolmaster.It isn t the easiest book to dive into at first, but if you give it a chance and want an immersive historical experience, the effort will be well rewarded.

  5. says:

    This was one of those books that I kept checking pages numbers to see how many before the end of the chapter, the end of the part and the end of the book This is a dead giveaway for a book I am not enjoying all that much I was not able to connect with any of the characters, but I did like the setting and the descriptions of life in that time.

  6. says:

    This book begins with a scene, so powerful a woman crawling east over the Appalachias that it brought me back to the series after a decades long hiatus Now I am reading the rest of the series and find these books among the best historical novels ever written.