Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Etta by Gerald Kolpan (a review)

Etta: A Novel
2.5 out of 5: This historical novel imagines the life of Etta Place, fellow outlaw and lover of the Sundance Kid, who was a member of Butch Cassidy's notorious gang of train and bank robbers. Etta's story is full of strong characters and dangerous adventures that unfold at the turn of the last century in a setting made real with plenty of historical details and figures (including a substantial role played by Eleanor Roosevelt). Excepting one villainous character, Kolpan imagines a group of outlaws governed by a code of ethics comparable to Robinhood's. Unfortunately, these likable renegades are too one-dimensional and interchangeable to be interesting. As a character, Etta is much more engaging than her partners in crime.

Interspersed throughout the story are Etta's journal entries, the Sundance Kid's letters to his father, detective reports, and newspaper articles. While the variety of sources lends credibility to this purely fictional story, Kolpan chose to reveal some of the novel's key moments via terse newspaper articles. This construct stripped the novel's most crucial events of suspense and emotion. (David Ebershoff's The 19th Wife is a much better mixed-media novel.) Fans of historical fiction will enjoy this quick-paced adventure tale as long as they aren't seeking much depth.


Anonymous said...

What a great last line for your review!!! (clarification in view of lack of icon: no, that wasn't sarcastic, it was a sincere appreciation!)

bermudaonion said...

I'm just staring to appreciate the historical fiction genre, so I'm disappointed to see this one's a disappointment.