I finally finished Jubilee Trail by Gwen Bristow. The book was published in 1950 and clocks in at 564 pages. It is an historical fiction novel that details a young woman’s journey along the trail in the mid-nineteenth century. The title of the book, and the name of the trail is ironic, but fitting. The trail presents adventurers with numerous hardships, but also brings about love and friendship.

Garnet, the story’s heroine, is a young woman of high society New York. She meets an interesting man visiting on business in between traveling the trail and falls in love. In addition to Garnet, we have Florinda, the only other main female character. She is a young “actress”, also from New York. She sings and dances at an establishment known as the “Jewel Box”–which is deemed unsuitable for women of high society.

Their paths eventually cross in New Orleans, where Garnet and her new husband, Oliver, are on their honeymoon. After lots of tedious and obvious foreshadowing, we later learn that the lives of these two women were more interconnected than we were originally led to believe. The two women face a lifetime of hardship together in a matter of a couple years as they embark on the Jubilee Trail.

Eventually, they make it to California, where life never seems to get any easier for them. The book is full of adventure, perseverance, friendship, and love. The ending was somewhat predictable, but not unenjoyable. Although Bristow’s writing style is probably accessible for most, I found it choppy and disconnected at times. The erratic use of punctuation (particularly quotation marks for dialogue) was also distracting.

Normally, I enjoy historical fiction. I’d even say it’s one of my favorite genres. This book, however, took a lot of time for me to really “get in to” and, ultimately, to get through. The book was longer than necessary, I think, and I did not find Garnet to be a likable character by today’s standards. She tried to be a strong and independent woman, but in the end, she simply could not exist without the assistance of a man in some way or another. Rather than feeling sympathetic for her, I was mostly annoyed by her.

Florinda, in my opinion, is the story’s true heroine. She has seen more hardship in her life than most and yet she continues to move forward. She never lets anyone–especially a man–get in her way or stop her from doing what she wants. Florinda is strong and resilient. She is a good friend to Garnet and others, but she looks out for herself first and foremost. Her character was one that I could admire and respect.

While there are certainly some people out there who would enjoy (and have enjoyed) this book, I cannot personally recommend it. The length, writing style, and unsympathetic characters made this a difficult book for me to finish.

As always, thanks for reading. Check back later to find out what’s next on my list. And if you have a book you’d like reviewed, feel free to contact me.

-AB

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