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Ordeal by Hunger: The Story of the Donner Party

– tekijä: George R. Stewart

JäseniäKirja-arvostelujaSuosituimmuussijaKeskimääräinen arvioMaininnat
395849,819 (4.02)17
The tragedy of the Donner party constitutes one of the most amazing stories of the American West. In 1846 eighty-seven people -- men, women, and children -- set out for California, persuaded to attempt a new overland route. After struggling across the desert, losing many oxen, and nearly dying of thirst, they reached the very summit of the Sierras, only to be trapped by blinding snow and bitter storms. Many perished; some survived by resorting to cannibalism; all were subjected to unbearable suffering. Incorporating the diaries of the survivors and other contemporary documents, George Stewart wrote the definitive history of that ill-fated band of pioneers; an astonishing account of what human beings may endure and achieve in the final press of circumstance.… (lisätietoja)
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Näyttää 1-5 (yhteensä 8) (seuraava | näytä kaikki)
I was familiar with the basics of the story of the Donner Party, but didn't appreciate the depth and breadth of the ordeal. The book was well researched, and really gives you a feeling of what the people went through. For a similar story, see Nando Parrado's "Miracle in the Andes". Both are telling stories of survival, and make you wonder about the limits of our own endurance. ( )
  rsutto22 | Jul 15, 2021 |
Awesome adventure story without being purple. Read this in one day! ( )
  mirnanda | Dec 27, 2019 |
More Donner Party lore. Author George Stewart doesn’t think much of Charles McGlashan and History of the Donner Party, stating McGlashan was not much of a historian and got most of his information from interviews and letters with survivors rather than written sources (he concedes that McGlashan became sort of a “confessor” for many of the Donner survivors, with his files full of chatty letters that have nothing to do with the events of 1846-47). Nevertheless, there’s not much to gain from Stewart's Ordeal by Hunger. Stewart claims he corrected numerous errors of place and time in McGlashan’s account, although none of these seem to make much difference in the story. Stewart does less whitewashing of cannibalism; according to Stewart, a lot more Donner party children were involved in cannibalism – both ways. McGlashan’s book has better maps – especially of the Donner camps in the mountains – but these may be an artifact of the book format (plus, Stewart claims McGlashan’s maps are inaccurate). Stewart also makes it clearer how badly off the Donner party was before it even got to the mountains.


Although he doesn’t come right out and say it, Stewart seems to be as puzzled as I am at the collapse of the Donner Party. These were supposed to be the proverbial, rugged pioneers, yet they fell to pieces; a little cooperation would have saved a lot of lives. There didn’t seem to be any natural leaders – George Donner, the titular “captain”, seems to have been chosen for his easy-going nature rather than any leadership ability. James Reed might have filled the role but he was expelled from the group after accidently killing another member (it was a knife versus whip fight; sounds like self-defense from the descriptions but the group was dubious). Reed later rejoined, left again to cross the mountain on foot and obtain supplies, returned with a relief party, and left again with a batch of survivors.

Although he uses the term “routed” a couple of times, Stewart excuses the Donner Party as Illinois farmers unused to deserts, mountains, or snow; perhaps, but you would think a little more information gathering would be prudent before you packed all your worldly possession in a wagon and headed west.

A point I noticed in both McGlashan and Stewart is the paucity of firearms. They were fairly well provided crossing the desert – enough to do desultory sniping at Indians (to be fair, arrows came the other way first) – but they seem to have had only one rifle and practically no ammunition at the mountain camps.

Better than the McGlashan book, but perhaps still not the definitive Donner Party story. ( )
  setnahkt | Dec 11, 2017 |
This was a tough book to get through. It was interesting, but a lot of the same: they were starving, freezing, destitute. The author did a remarkable job with the material he had to work with. He does not take artistic license by padding the stories with fictional dialogue or drama; he pieces together the story splinter by splinter from the diaries and letters of the party members and the other historical resources available from the time.

Interesting to see that, contrary to what one might assume, the party did not band together as one, but maintained a "dog eat dog" (cough) mentality to the very end. One has to wonder if this contributed to their demise, or was the very salvation of the survivors.

Because of the age of the story (1846) and the book (published originally in 1936, updated in 1960), some of the language caused me confusion. For example, there is reference to "the Californians", who differ from "the Americans", but I'm not sure who is what. In addition, the same book written today would have probably included clear maps, or maybe even photos, of the area. The pen and ink map drawings were adequate for the times when the book was published, but they do little to indicate the location now, particularly since some location names or references have changed. I was anxious to see where they traveled in relation to developed areas today.

All in all, a fascinating but challenging read. ( )
  Lit_Cat | Dec 9, 2017 |
The story of the Donner Party
  jhawn | Jul 31, 2017 |
Näyttää 1-5 (yhteensä 8) (seuraava | näytä kaikki)
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Sinun täytyy kirjautua sisään voidaksesi muokata Yhteistä tietoa
Katso lisäohjeita Common Knowledge -sivuilta (englanniksi).
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Ordeal by Hunger: The Story of the Donner Party was written by George Rippey Stewart (1895-1980). George (nmi) Stewart is a different author.
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Englanninkielinen Wikipedia

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The tragedy of the Donner party constitutes one of the most amazing stories of the American West. In 1846 eighty-seven people -- men, women, and children -- set out for California, persuaded to attempt a new overland route. After struggling across the desert, losing many oxen, and nearly dying of thirst, they reached the very summit of the Sierras, only to be trapped by blinding snow and bitter storms. Many perished; some survived by resorting to cannibalism; all were subjected to unbearable suffering. Incorporating the diaries of the survivors and other contemporary documents, George Stewart wrote the definitive history of that ill-fated band of pioneers; an astonishing account of what human beings may endure and achieve in the final press of circumstance.

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