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The Snowshoe Trail

February 14, 2020

I do love a good survival book, but The Snowshoe Trail, by Edison Marshall, isn’t one. It is, however, a) racist as fuck, b) action-packed, and c) substantially too long.

Bill Bronson is a fur trapper in, I think, present-day British Columbia. He’s hoping to someday find his father’s gold mine, and also take revenge on the man who killed his father and made off with the loose gold.

Virginia Tremont is a young woman from an unspecified US city. She and her guardian, Kenly Lounsbury, hire Bill to help them look for Harold Lounsbury, Kenly’s nephew and Virginia’s fiance. He disappeared after coming to this part of the world six years ago, so there’s not much hope, but Virginia hasn’t given up. Kenly Lounsbury’s motives are less clear. He’s financing the expedition, but it’s hard to imagine him caring about anything but his own consequence and comfort.

Bill falls in love with Virginia at first sight, but keeps it to himself. It’s pretty obvious that he approves of her sense and spirit, though, especially when the only others with them are the whiny Lounsbury, and the shifty cook, Vosper. Virginia appreciates Bill, too, and her steadfastness and appreciation of nature create a friendly bond between them.

Winter seems to be arriving in the mountains a little bit early, but they’re doing okay. And then disaster strikes–well, the first disaster, anyway. Bill and Virginia (brave, trying to do things) get swept into a river, while Lounsbury and Vosper (cowardly, lazy) hang back and watch. Bill (superhumanly, and not for the last time) manages to get himself and Virginia to the opposite shore, somewhere downstream. The other two pack up as soon as is seemly, leaving behind everything they don’t feel like carrying, and head back to civilization.

Bill and Virginia have ended up near one of the cabins that Bill maintains, and it’s well-stocked with supplies. The two of them have similar tastes, and with food, shelter, a stove and a phonograph, they get along pretty well. Bill teaches Virginia to shoot and snowshoe, she spontaneously learns to cook, and they wait for the river to freeze over.

And then–yes. Bill finds Harold Lounsbury. He’s fine. He didn’t go home because he didn’t care to. He’s an alcoholic, and he’s living with a native woman who seems to be largely without agency. The depiction of the First Nations people in this book is really, really bad, folks. Worth steering clear of the book for. The only part of Harold’s living arrangements that Edison Marshall doesn’t seem to disapprove of is the power imbalance.

Bill promised to bring Harold to Virginia, so he does, but none of the three are all that happy with the arrangement. Then: a food shortage. A bear attack. Bill goes blind. Harold hatches a plot with his native pals. Virginia gets shot. It’s exhausting. I kept thinking the book was over, and it wasn’t.

We do finally get an ending, and it’s fine, but by that time I didn’t care anymore. I think there are reasons you might want to read this book, but I can no longer remember them.

One comment

  1. Ah, another book to not-read. Thank you! :-) (and this sounds a bit like Harold Bindloss cross-bred with an even-more-racist even-more-sensationalist dime novel?)

    Is the cabin time at least good?



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