First off, let me say that author Frances Hunter now has a fan for life.
Now that that's out of the way, I am more than delighted to give a glowing review for The Fairest Portion of the Globe, a novel about Meriweather Lewis and William Clark, before their history making journey through the West. Hunter's novel is set in 1794 when the two young men meet at Fort Washington; it doesn't take long for them to develop a tight bond amid the machinations of the French, the Spanish, and their own army as the struggle for control of the Mississippi River explodes around them. Clark, living in the shadow of older brother George Rogers Clark, finds himself prisoner of the Spanish; Lewis, young and headstrong, forges forth on a rescue mission with disastrous results. Along the way, we also get to know Clark's sister Fanny, French botanist Andre Michaux, General Mad Anthony Wayne, and even a young William Henry Harrison as the novel moves from one larger than life personality to the next.
This novel is so sweeping and grand that it's almost impossible to describe. Hunter has done the research fully and the story reflects that, yet the storyline is never bogged down by too much information. Indeed, the characterizations of the historical figures are so vivid, so richly layered, that they literally leap off the pages while propelling this complex tale forward. There is humor and tragedy; there is proof that government has always been slow and overly burdened by political policy. I came away with a much clearer sense of the way our great country was explored and settled, and the price so many paid, including the Native Americans. Above all, I came away with feeling that Lewis and Clark were real people, not just names in a dusty old history book.
Frances Hunter's The Fairest Portion of the Globe is one of the rare historical fiction novels that takes the known history and makes it come alive through believable dialogue and actual events well told. I felt completely enveloped in the time period and lives of the characters. It's been a long time since I've been quite this dazzled by historical fiction. Highly, highly recommended.