Vivid, lyrical and often humorous, this respected, first-hand account of a journey across the Great American Desert now comes to life as an audiobook. Written in 1912 by Julius Birge, the memoir describes an 1866 wagon train trip taken during "the bloody years on the plains."
Recounting the risks of traveling the Oregon Trail, the author faithfully depicts the virgin environment, Native American people and abundant wildlife in words that now seem more timely than ever. From Red Cloud going on the warpath, to Mormon services where Brigham Young preached, to the legendary Buffalo Bill, Birge happened upon events, places and people whose significance was revealed with time. Late in his life, understanding the importance of what he had witnessed, he wrote The Awakening of the Desert.
Lovers of nature, students of history, listeners fascinated by the early West, and especially those traveling through its landscape today, will appreciate this recollection, abridged and narrated by the author's great-granddaughter 100 years after its first publication.
Written by a western pioneer just following the civil war, we travel to and through the west, hearing first-hand accounts of cowboys, Native Americans, Mormons, boom towns and best of all gain a true sense of the authentic flavor.
The writer avoids some of the hard-to-access arcane language of the era and makes some wonderful phrasing and word choices.
The tale of discovery and adventure read by the actual great-granddaughter of the author. At first it felt a bit curious for a female voice to depict such a masculine story but over time it felt just right, especially when Julius is painting wonderful word pictures of the real west.
A great listen for history fans who want to get an authentic sense of what is often an over- (or under-) romanticized era.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
While I understand the sentimentality of using the writer's great grand daughter to narrate the book, I'm afraid her reading is very monotonous. I kept drifting away and rewinding constantly.
This is unfortunate, as the story is very interesting and the added production of sound and music is well done.
What did you love best about The Awakening of the Desert?
This is a fascinating book. Read by the author’s great granddaughter, it’s a first person account of an 1866 wagon train journey, told in the language of the day, which greatly enriches the tale. Subtle music and sound effects further flavor the yarn, until we feel we are trekking along with the brave souls on their great adventure. I recommend this to anyone interested in the history of the Old West.
Would you listen to The Awakening of the Desert again? Why?
This firsthand and first person account of Julius’s four-month trip across the West in 1866 is not only an important historical document, but a beautifully written chronicle that I enjoyed tremendously. Barbara Birge narrates The Awakening of the Desert, written by her great-grandfather Julius C. Birge and published over 100 years ago.The prose of this book is poetic. The rich details of life on a wagon train are fascinating (how does a new cowhand identify his own oxen from among dozens?) and often humorous. Yet the book is also written with the over-arching knowledge that this moment in time is utterly unique, as Native Americans and new settlers struggle with each other’s presence, as precious natural resources are beginning to be squandered, as people from many cultures try to live with and understand each other as they inhabit new territories.
What does Barbara Birge bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?
Barbara Birge beautifully reads The Awakening of the Desert, and her narration is a perfect complement to this record of history. Deft background sound effects and music offer just the right enhancement and feel of authenticity. It was pure enjoyment to listen to this audio book, and I recommend it with enthusiasm.
Any additional comments?
This would be a great road trip companion for anyone simply interested in American history and/or traveling out West.