O My America!
Shortlisted for the Dolman Travel Book Award
After reckoning with the ends of the earth in acclaimed books such as Terra Incognita and The Magnetic North, Sara Wheeler rediscovered America thirty-five years after her first Greyhound trip across the country. She returns in turbulent midlife to trace the steps of six women who fled various sorts of trouble in nineteenth-century England and went to the United States to reinvent themselves.
Her travel companions include Fanny Trollope, mother of Anthony and author of the biting Domestic Manners of the Americans; the actress Fanny Kemble, who shocked the nation with her passionate first-hand indictment of slavery; the prolifically pamphleteering economist Harriet Martineau; the homesteader Rebecca Burlend, who had never been more than twelve miles from her Yorkshire village before she sailed to the New World; the traveller Isabella Bird, whose many ailments remained in check as long as she was scaling the Rockies; and the novelist Catherine Hubback, niece of Jane Austen, who deposited her husband in a madhouse and rode the brand-new rails to San Francisco.
Tough-minded outsiders, these women’s truest qualities emerged in a country as incomplete and tentative as their native land was staid and settled. And they discovered second acts for themselves at a time when the world expected them to disappear politely. From the swampy heat of Georgia’s Sea Islands to the icy purity of the Cascades, Sara Wheeler finds their path, and her own.
A curious and teasing book... Wheeler is a writer of great composure and energy, and out of these American adventures she fashions something unexpected and compelling, and that is a portrait of a nation under construction. -- Anthony Sattin * Spectator * Her latest work, published just ahead of International Women's Day on Friday, is perfect for women who want to shake a fist at the fading light. -- Ginny Dougary * Guardian * Bracing and ebullient... This is a fresh and unforgettable picture of the country we have been steadily falling out of love with; a second act indeed. -- Frances Wilson * Sunday Telegraph * A true celebration. -- Ruth Scurr * Daily Telegraph * One secret of first-person travel writing is the presence of the narrator as a good companion. It probably cannot be taught - a writer either is or is not sympathetic, amusing, insightful and informative. Sara Wheeler has had it from the off. You want to travel with her, and you want to travel blind. -- Roger Hutchinson * Scotsman *
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