justice_turtle: text reads "I don't want logic, I want a half brick" (half brick)
justice_turtle ([personal profile] justice_turtle) wrote in [community profile] readallthenewberys2017-09-24 12:33 pm

Newbery Honor: Swift Rivers (Cornelia Meigs), Part 2

When last we left our hero on page 27, he had met a cute boy he isn't going to hook up with, had quarreled with his constructedly mean uncle, and had revealed that he wants more education than he's had from the local one-room schoolhouse. Then I went on a tear about the apotheosis of book-larnin' and gave up for the night.

* Chris gets his grandfather settled for the winter, then heads down toward Uncle Nels's farm again. He takes a shortcut over the hill in the dark and gets thoroughly lost; he follows a set of human-seeming footprints in the snow, which makes me want to thump his head on something because they're almost certainly his own and you can die that way, but to his great and unrealistic luck they're a bear's, and even more luckily they lead him to the high meadow where our story started, from whence he can get home easily by road, rather than to a bear cave or a bear.

* Uncle Nels has locked and barred the farm gate against Chris -- the girl Freda tells us the idea is that Chris should go back to Grandfather's hut, but that doesn't match up. You don't lock somebody out at night in a Minnesota snowstorm unless you want him to freeze to death. I am dissatisfied with this book: Chris has no sense, Uncle Nels flipflops between being Evil and just Stern, Grandfather insisted his rheumatism wouldn't act up again for the rest of the winter. Nobody's motivations are coherent. *sigh*

* A farmer whose house Chris stopped at earlier has come by to see if Chris got home okay, so at least his not freezing to death isn't pure deus ex machina. The farmer takes Chris to another, nearer neighboring farm, which will have the handy side effect (the author doesn't point out, this is all me) of letting everyone in the area know they should hate Uncle Nels now.

* Since Uncle Nels has ordered Chris not to return, Chris is free of his unofficial indenturement, so in the spring he'll be able to cut lumber and drive it to the sawmill, thus earning the money to set Grandfather up with a caretaker and go to college himself (he outlined this plan earlier).

* We get a few pages talking about the man who built Grandfather's cabin -- the first white settler in the region, not a French voyageur but an Englishman, and an ancestor of Grandfather's and thus (on the father's side) Chris's. Gotta get those inherently noble English genetics in there to explain why Chris and Grandfather are so much more speshuler than the Swedish Uncle Nels and the "slower minded farmer folk"! ;P Gaaaah, I kind of wish I wasn't noticing all this bullshit. :-(

* Grandfather is also an ex-sailor, prevented from further voyaging by an unspecified injury. ADVENTUR.

* As he travels up the road toward Grandfather's cabin, Chris meets a Métis dude, mixed-race French and Chippewa, called Pierre Dumenille. (The descriptions are... awkward, to say the least; Pierre's "fire was the small, intense blaze that an Indian always builds", but his gaze has "some depth of feeling which a red man would never show", to take just a couple of the many examples. Everything Pierre does is assessed as either typically Native or French/white.) Pierre thinks the idea of cutting lumber and rafting it downstream to sell should work.

* Oh, Jesus fuck my life. While Chris is scouting out big trees to cut down, he chats with various native Chippewa, and we hear a take of how Stuart single-handedly saved a Chippewa village from sickness: "The masterful white youth had forced the sick and protesting warriors to rise from their beds and move the camp to a high, windy ridge where clean water poured past them from a mountain top. [snip] nor would its men soon forget the scornful reproofs which, even with his scant knowledge of their tongue, he heaped upon them for setting their encampment in a wet, unwholesome swamp." *angry screaming* Because Europeans always have to know more about germ theory and wilderness survival than the native people who've lived here for centuries, amirite? Even though Louis Pasteur over in France is barely in his teens and Stuart fucking Hale still thinks meat in the sun spontaneously generates maggots! :P

You get one more chance, Cornelia Meigs. I am not putting up with this racist goddamn bullshit for another *checks* 200+ pages!

* Chris finds some more fool's gold, assumes because he's an idiot with no memory of previous plot-relevant conversations that it's real gold, and nearly goes over a cliff trying to collect more from a steep scree face.

* When Chris comes home, he finds Grandfather chopping down the big walnut tree that has stood in front of his cabin since the previously mentioned English settler planted it. This is a Good and Wise thing to do, because reasons. *twitch* What little knowledge I have of environmental concerns is really rather distressed by this book.

* In the spring, because we have to have a completely irrational and unrealistic villain to make it a Real Book, Uncle Nels comes up to the cabin, offers to hire Chris back again (Chris laughs in his face, which is totally not rude at all), and then announces that he will not let the logs float past his riverside farm. What the flying fuck, Cornelia Meigs. Can we not ever have a man-against-nature conflict, to use the simplified terminology of an English class?

* Everybody else in the valley is nice. There are Swedes, Danes, Norwegians, and Germans, none of whom have maintained any cultural differences or grudges against each other. "They became a friendly, united neighborhood", we're told, and again, "they became Americans quickly, for they had much in common with the bold Anglo-Saxons who had been the first pioneers in the United States." *makes strangled noises about Florida*

* Anyway, before Chris and the farmer Eric Knudson start running the logs, the blacksmith comes up and tells Chris that Uncle Nels has had him forging a giant iron chain with which to block off the river. Chris will deal with this problem when he encounters it.

* Instead of the logs, though, the ice-cakes run up against the chain as the river thaws, and cause the river to flood over Uncle Nels's land. Can't ever have a villain who plans things out thoroughly and well. ;P So Chris rescues Uncle Nels from where he's trying to break up the ice with a pickaxe, and then the logs snap the chain in half without any trouble.

* We get a couple pages of running the logs downstream through the cold, rainy spring weather. One day Chris takes shelter in an abandoned cabin while he waits for Eric to catch up. Two men meet him and ask after a fellow who, by his description, is almost certainly Stuart Hale. They refuse to give their names, but claim they're cattle buyers; however, Chris recognizes one of their horses as having been stolen from the valley where he lived, so these must be the horse thieves who were after Stuart's horse Pharaoh.

* Stuart shows up next. He has by this time sold Pharaoh, because he hasn't the attention span to stay at any one job long-term -- oh, what a definitely avoidable personal failing *sarcasm* -- and the horse thieves wanted him to partner in their bandit schemes, which he refused to do, so now they're trying to force him, though why God only knows. What the fuck use is an unwilling bandit?

* Anyway, so then the horse thieves come back, but the boys manage to climb out the chimney and get away. (If I had built a chimney capable of admitting a big chunky Swedish teenager, I would think my chimney was too big, but whatever.)

* In the morning, Eric Knudson finds them and reports that he found one of the horse thieves in the cabin, coshed over the head but still alive, and asked a nearby farmer to take care of him. The fool's gold the boys had fortuitously left in the cabin is gone, so the horse thieves must have quarreled over it, thinking it was real gold. Probably. "Of the lumps of fool gold, they never heard again."

* Stuart joins Eric and Chris to help run the logs. We hear a little bit about the evils of clear-cutting; of course Grandfather came up with some special way to cut and move the big trees that didn't damage the rest of the forest, because your hero can't fuck up the environment the way everybody really did. ;P

* We reach the Mississippi proper, and the logs are brought to shore to be made up into a raft. Chris will bargain with one Shreve McCloud, Pierre Dumenille's boss, and arrange the specifics of bringing the logs further downstream. If Dumenille agrees, he may let Chris travel with the log raft.

* Shreve advises Chris to bring his logs down to St. Louis and sell them there, as shipbuilders from New Orleans will apparently be really excited about the big walnut tree.

* There is a plotty noise about Dumenille's best friend, Joe Langford, with whom he has quarreled. Presumably they will get back together.

* Chris and Stuart are both signed on to help float the big raft downstream. A surly Canadian fellow is laid off to make room for them; he may or may not cause trouble later, I don't know, but if he does I'd rather not have to explain him then.

* Langford is on another raft some days ahead of Dumenille, since they refuse to work together or even speak. We are informed by a shopkeeper's wife that when Langford stopped in her town earlier he was terribly ill, and in his fever delirium he kept calling out for Dumenille.

* At the Rock Island rapids, the river is too low for the raft to go on till a rain comes. I haven't been through this area in the past twenty years, and Wiki isn't helping me figure out whether this is a real thing, though in modern times there's a lock and dam in the area, so maybe? Anyway, on a plotty front, Langford's raft got through before the river dropped too low, so we're not yet at the point where the two pilots will (presumably) meet up.

* A rainstorm and high wind come in the night. Pierre decides to take the raft over the rapids immediately, in the dark, feeling that danger is less than the danger of the river dropping again by morning. I'm having trouble picturing a single thunderstorm big enough to raise the level of the entire fucking Mississippi appreciably? I'd think it was mostly a matter of snowmelt levels. However, DRAMA. :S

(Somebody please tell me if I'm wrong about this. I'd honestly like to know.)

* Chris is sent up to fetch the men from shore leave. There is a confrontation: a "big man with a low forehead and bristling red hair", one Spike Ellerby, from another raft, is described at length as a troublemaker who hates Pierre unreasonably, so that we will know he is Wrong when he says Pierre has no right to risk his men's lives in the dark -- even though in reality he's totally 100% right and Pierre is being a macho idiot. :P I am judging this book so hard. Nobody ever makes a wise or sensible choice, we're just informed who is Good and the wisdom of their choices is assumed to follow therefrom. o_O

* Spike and Pierre have a fistfight; Pierre wins, and lays off all the ~cowardly~ men who expressed agreement with Spike that running the rapids at night was a foolhardy choice. You know what? Fuck this book. I'm done. I'll flip to the end and see where we end up, but I'm not sitting through any more of this apologia for toxic masculinity.

* Yeah, everything settles out nicely, Uncle Nels stays out of the way when Chris comes back, and Grandfather has planted a new walnut tree to replace the old one. La la whatever, I'm done. *deep sigh*