Title: Duel in the Wilderness
Author: Karin Clafford Farley
Major Themes: Colonial America, French and Indian War, George Washington, Survival
Synopsis: Based on George Washington’s own journal, this is the story of his trip from Virginia to the Ohio Valley to try to get the French to pull out of North America.
Because I’m always on the lookout for good historical fiction to help bring history alive, I bought Duel in the Wilderness when I saw it used. I never opened it, however; I simply made a note that it was set near the French and Indian War, and it stayed on the shelf for several years. When we reached that era recently in our journey through American history, we started reading this book—and found it quite good.
I had heard about George Washington’s mission to try to drive the French out of the Ohio Valley, but knew very little about it. Mainly, I had heard of the assassination attempt, when an Indian tried to shoot him. Well, now we all know much more about his trip! This book, which is based on Washington’s own journal written during the expedition, brings the trip to life.
The story begins in Williamsburg; General Washington, only 21 years old, is asked to deliver a message to the French commander in the Ohio Valley. No one else has been willing to undertake this task, but the young adjutant is eager for the job. He heads out after hiring an interpreter to go with him, then finds a guide—Christopher Gist, the only other name in the book that I had heard before. They then find some traders to go with them, one of whom knows an Indian language, and head off into the wilderness. Very quickly they realize they are in a duel of wits with the French—and then a duel with nature, as they struggle for survival through the wintry wilderness.
We found this book very interesting. It was an exciting adventure, made even better because we knew it was true. It vividly portrays the tensions between the English and the French, which set the stage for the French and Indian War. I wasn’t at all sure about this book when we started it, but we found it a very good addition to our study.
WARNING: Damn is used in chapter 2, chapter 7 and chapter 8, sacrebleu twice in chapter 6, mon dieu in chapter 7, hell in chapter 8, and my God in chapter 9 and chapter 11. In chapters 2, 3, 9 and twice in chapter 11 mention is made of the tortures used by the Indians. Chapter 9 has Gist saying he figures Washington is a “devil with the ladies.”
Read Aloud—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 13
Reading Independently—Ages 12 – 15, 15 and Above