Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tuesdays Tomes: A Woman Who Went to Alaska by May Kellogg Sullivan + photographs

Tuesdays Tomes is a weekly book review of vintage books available free on-line.

A Woman Who Went to Alaska by May Kellogg Sullivan

Mrs. Sullivan’s recollections begin in 1899 with her first trip north to Dawson, Canada by ship and train during the Klondike Gold Rush. She traveled alone, on her way to surprise her father and brother. I couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for her-she was quite shocked by the sometime drunkenness of the passengers. Like many travelers anxious to arrive, she also does not have very nice things to say about Canadian officialdom. She spent the summer in Dawson but really tells us very little about her time there and is soon back on board ship leaving-though this time with her brother.

Something must have clicked for her because the following spring she’s travelling again-this time to Nome with a group of friends. They’re all planning to find work there. Mrs. Sullivan is by now clearly a much more seasoned traveler

For me, the book really got interesting with Chapter 9 when her true tale begins. She finds work as a kitchen help, first at a mining camp and then at a restaurant run by several Swedish women she met on the steamship. These women become her true friends and when winter approaches, she goes with them to winter at a mission on the Golovin Bay where they know the minister. Alma, Mary and the other ladies become truly alive for the reader and Mrs. Sullivan’s adventures in Chinik are very interesting. She often simply quotes from her journal and so gives a day by day account which gives us a feeling for the rhythm of her life there. One funny story which all sewers will enjoy tells of her trying to make a pattern for footed pajamas! I also enjoyed her recital of the meals that they ate and the temperature! (That actually surprised me-I expected a constant 30 below or so but no, there were often wide fluctuations.) She has some of the men prospectors she met at the mission stake some mining claims for her. (No, we don’t hear how these turn out!) She has some rather harrowing adventures too when she moves from the mission to a nearby hotel to be near a sick child she is teaching.

Perfectly read by Karen Commins you can download this free audio-book here or the free e-book in pdf, e-pub or Kindle format here.

You can also read my review of a fiction work on the Nome Gold Rush here. While fiction (and a rousing good story) the author, Rex Beach, was actually in Nome and partook of the Gold Rush.

Mrs. Sullivan seems to never have been without her camera and so I’m sharing below some of her-as she called them-Kodaks or you can look at all of the book’s photographs here.

Mrs. Sullivan herself in her Alaskan winter clothes.

The Hannah that we hear about.
Nome and its white tents.
The Mission at Chinik including reindeer!
Prospecting in winter...did her hole bear golden fruit?
From her visit to Bonanza just before she left for home the second time.


Terry @ La Bella Vie said...

Thank you Miri for the great review...sounds like a good read, and what an adventurous women she must have been, smart too at having her Kodak in hand!
I'm getting back into sewing/quilting again now that summer activities are slowing down (See last post "In My Garden") small but back at it again.
Thanks for stopping by to say hi!

Roslyn said...

Great review Miri I am going to download the audiobook!