Louisiana Purchaseby A. E. Hotchner
Louisiana. A name redolent of history, tragedy, and romance. It once extended from the Mississippi to the Rockies, from the Gulf to the Great Lakes. Its purchase in 1803 doubled the size of the United States. A. E. Hotchner brings his famous talent for portraiture and historical drama to this astonishing land. In the mid-eighteenth century, the exiles, renegades, and… See more details below
Louisiana. A name redolent of history, tragedy, and romance. It once extended from the Mississippi to the Rockies, from the Gulf to the Great Lakes. Its purchase in 1803 doubled the size of the United States. A. E. Hotchner brings his famous talent for portraiture and historical drama to this astonishing land. In the mid-eighteenth century, the exiles, renegades, and aristocrats who made up the community that founded New Orleans tamed a mighty river for profit and conquered a wilderness to secure their freedom. No man made more of a difference in Louisiana's transition from the Old to the New World than Guy Laroule. Banished from Versailles, he was forced to rebuild a ravished plantation, and fight deadly battles to survive. This rousing story of his life, his discovery of love and family, and of true honor parallels the opening of this vast, endlessly rich territory. As the century closes, Guy's new city, St. Louis, rises at the mouth of the Missouri, and Mr. Jefferson will secure the destiny of a nation with the audacious addition of Louisiana and its inhabitants.
The shallow tone is established early, during several scenes set in France in 1750 at the court of Louis XV, where the central character, Guy Laroule, plays at being a fop without actually becoming one. He delights in theatrical flirtations with the King's first consort, Madame de Pompadouramong them acting out sexual encounters without engaging in sex, so that she can learn how to please her king. Like the reader, however, the king is unconvinced of Guy's innocence. He banishes Guy to Louisiana, where he assumes ownership of a rundown plantation and, suddenly, is transformed into a hard-working, ingenious capitalist who pays his slaves wages and refuses to take black mistresses. As the plantation begins to prosper, he rescues a woman from an abusive relationship and marries hera great relief, since romance doesn't appear to be Hotchner's thing. The tale perks up somewhat when Guy quits plantation life to become a fur trader at the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Riversand is thus in on the founding of St. Louis. Perhaps because St. Louis was Hotchner's hometown, he's more credible here. Guy becomes a powerful businessman and politician, conferring with no less than Thomas Jefferson and James Madison to effect the Louisiana Purchase. Hotchner waxes almost eloquent on the power and dangers of the two great rivers, and he effectively enough dramatizes the violent rivalry among those anxious to control and exploit the new land. Best in this hodgepodge history are scenes dealing with the first St. Louis breweries, and early methods of refrigeration using ice cut from the rivers and caves beneath the city for storage.
Hotchner's name will pull in some readers, but this is finally a curious, shoddy, and uneven production even by Hotchner's standards.
- Virginia Publishing Corporation
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Well, there is good historical fiction, and there is bad historical fiction. The basic story line of this book involves Guy Laroule, a fictitious young French nobleman who is exiled from Versailles to Louisiana by Louis XV in 1750, prospers as a plantation owner, loses his farm, moves up the Mississippi River, becomes one of the founders of St. Louis, and eventually advises Thomas Jefferson to purchase the Louisiana Territory (said to be loosely based on the lives of Pierre Laclede and Auguste Chouteau). However, the first couple of chapters center on "having sex" (Hotchner's words)--the King's having sex with his wife, his succession of official mistresses (including his main one, Madame de Pompadour), and even ladies of the street; and Madame Pompadour's having sex with Laroule, her acting partner, to help her become more satisfactory to the King (which relationship is why Laroule was exiled). Well, I thought that if I could get past those first chapters of this, the story might get better. It did, for a while, but when Laroule arrived in New Orleans, he "coupled" (again, Hotchner's word) with his new acting partner, a countess and the wife of a local government official. I will not share with you some of the detail that the author gave in describing this coupling, but it is basically pornography in print. The two "made love" for ten days, but what really caused me to give up reading the book was when the countess's husband was described as a man who "pursues sex as a policeman chases a thief; men, women, mountain goats, name it, the Comte will bed it." I suppose that all this licentious immorality was probably historically accurate, but the only reason that I can see for an author to focus upon it to this extent is to be sensational and appeal to the prurient so as to sell books. There is actually an interesting story in here somewhere, but it is marred beyond "socially redeeming value" by the emphasis on ungodliness presented almost in a way as to say that this is what everyone was doing so it must be fairly normal.