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The Amateur Emigrant

Narrated by: Donal Donnelly
Length: 4 hrs and 29 mins
Categories: Fiction, Literary
3.5 out of 5 stars (12 ratings)

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Editorial Reviews

Famed Scottish adventure writer Robert Louis Stevenson is given great treatment by Donal Donnelly, whose light Irish brogue carries the listener over the waves and hordes that populate The Amateur Emigrant, Stevenson’s account of his 1879-1880 journey from Glasgow to California to meet his future wife. Stevenson, a son of privilege, uses his travel as an opportunity to study how the lower classes fared on a long trip across the ocean and beyond.

Written during an epoch of mass migration - especially from Europe to America - Stevenson’s is a firsthand account by a fine writer of the difficulties suffered by those less fortunate than himself. This memoir belongs to the same category as other social and adventure odysseys like Democracy in America and Life on the Mississippi.

Publisher's Summary

The great author Robert Louis Stevenson received a fateful telegram from his friend Fanny Osbourne in 1879, urging him to leave Edinburgh and join her in San Francisco. The penniless young writer packed his bags and boarded a ship for a long, difficult voyage across the Atlantic, taking detailed notes of the appalling conditions and struggles of his fellow emigrants. When Stevenson arrived in the United States, he immediately boarded a railroad to California, observing the vast country during his transcontinental journey. A marvelously well-written travelogue, The Amateur Emigrant is one of the best accounts of the increasingly popular 19th-century adventure of Europeans sailing to the New World and discovering America.
©1999 Recorded Books, Inc. (P)1999 Recorded Books, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"It is the best book he ever wrote - a marvelous piece of writing, lakelike in its lucidity and depth, a genuine original." (Jonathan Raban, author of Old Glory)

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  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Griff
  • Los Altos, CA, USA
  • 11-03-08

What a rip-off

This might be a good book - but the quality of the recording makes it very difficult to tell. It sounds as if was recorded by Thomas Edison on to a very early wax cylinder, lost in a dusty cupboard for over 100 years, then rediscovered and transferred from an audio file to digital using two tin cans linked by tight string. Why Audible thinks this is suitable quality for commercial resale is anybody's guess. Certainly I'm not sticking around long enough to find out - I'm out of here as soon as I can get free of my subscription.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

Wonderful detail for family historians

This is a nicely spun accounting of the long journey of immigration to the USA from Europe in the early part of the 20th century. The narration was excellent as well.

What prompted me to obtain this title, however, was the promise of adding interesting details to my genealogical research. Four of my ancestors immigrated to the USA around the same time as this was written, and were themselves steerage passengers. Though I have photos of the ships, and some general information, this "day in the life of" style work was more of what I needed now to paint a more robust visual history of the trip my ancestors undertook. In this, I was most certainly not disappointed! I found this account fascinating.

Even better, when later in the work he recounts his travels across the USA by train, I realized those details were also helpful for my research in a different branch of my family, in which the Midwestern railroad lines formed a large part of transportation.

This is a relatively short title, but do not let that dissuade you if you have even a passing interest in early American history, travel, immigration from Europe, the actual journey details (representative), or even how the USA appeared to some outside eyes upon their arrival. Immigrants are such an integral part of this country's history and growth! This title is a truly remarkable glimpse into that time, and something I firmly believe all historians, family historians, and genealogists should hear/read at a minimum, though I also think a quick reminder of this country's earlier days would be beneficial to all who reside in the USA.

Highly recommended.