Wetzel by Richard Fleming

July 28, 2017

Title: Wetzel
Author: Richard Fleming
Print Length: 946 pages
Publisher: Tate Publishing & Enterprises

Genre: Historical Fiction

ISBN: 978-1681642178

Plot Summary: Lewis Wetzel, a daring border settler (the Boone of North-Western Virginia), came of age at the end of the Revolutionary War and took part in the twenty-year war between the woodland Indian Nations and the settlers of western Pennsylvania, western Virginia and Kentucky. This is the story of Wetzel’s life over a period of more than twenty years, featuring some of the key events of the rich history of the upper Ohio River Valley, Kentucky, Ohio and the Mississippi down to New Orleans.


I was not expecting not to finish this novel. Everything feels right about the book when you first pick it up; the cover is great and draws you in, the subject matter is intriguing and it has a compelling start. The problem I had with it is that the narrative is just too dry. The story has so much to offer, the huge landscapes, the colourful characters and the emotional turmoil of those taking part, but none of this materialises. While the story-line continues to engage (to the extent that I got to page 140 before I gave up), the narrative is rather bland. The characters are two dimensional. There is virtually no description, either explicitly or subtly, of them in terms of either their physical appearance or their personalities. The dialogue is stilted and does not help develop the characters or the plot line. Considering the terrifying situations in which the settlers found themselves, there was a distinct lack of emotional tension in the book. I would have loved more detail about the landscape, it must be beautiful, verdant and majestic, but none of this came through. I did not get any sense of whether the European settlements were squalid in contrast to the (I assume) lush countryside or well maintained and pleasant places in which to live. It seemed that Fleming may have become obsessed with the historical accuracy of the story and forgotten to bring the human side into it. Of course including all this detail would have significantly increased an already very long book, but it would have offered the opportunity to create a wonderful series. I would have loved to continue to read the book, but in the end there was not enough depth in it for me to engage with and to continue to plough on through the remaining 800 pages.


What others thought

At the time of writing there were no reviews on Amazon.co.uk. On Amazon.com, there were 10 reviews, all of 4* or above, giving an average rating of 4.7*. On Goodreads.com there were 3 ratings (including 2 reviews), all were 5*.


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