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O My America!: Second Acts in a New World Hardcover – 7 Mar 2013

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape (7 Mar. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224090704
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224090704
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 2.8 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 31,262 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"One secret of first-person travel writing is the presence of the narrator as a good companion. It probably cannot be taught – a writer either is or is not sympathetic, amusing, insightful and informative. Sara Wheeler has had it from the off. You want to travel with her, and you want to travel blind." (Roger Hutchinson Scotsman)

"A true celebration." (Ruth Scurr Daily Telegraph)

"Bracing and ebullient... This is a fresh and unforgettable picture of the country we have been steadily falling out of love with; a second act indeed." (Frances Wilson Sunday Telegraph)

"Her latest work, published just ahead of International Women's Day on Friday, is perfect for women who want to shake a fist at the fading light." (Ginny Dougary Guardian)

"A curious and teasing book... Wheeler is a writer of great composure and energy, and out of these American adventures she fashions something unexpected and compelling, and that is a portrait of a nation under construction." (Anthony Sattin Spectator)

Book Description

Six extraordinary middle-aged women, their renaissance in America, and the most dynamic period in US history.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By An Evening with AW on 3 April 2013
Format: Hardcover
I must mention at the outset that I had a vested interest in this book as the fourth chapter is about my Great Great Great Aunt Rebecca Burlend who in 1831, with my Great Great Great Uncle John and their five youngest children, emigrated from her native Yorkshire to the fertile farmland of Illinois. After 15 years in Illinois she returned to Leeds with John Bickerdike who had travelled over to Griggsville to look at the land owned by his recently deceased brother George and whilst back in the UK she related the journey out to America and the hardships encountered in the first few years there to her eldest son Edward who was the Headmaster at Swillington school and produced the book which Sara Wheeler used during her visit to Illinois to follow up this story and include this chapter in "O My America".

In the other 5 chapters Sara looks at the lives of 5 other women who wrote about their experiences in America. Fanny Trollope (mother of Anthony Trollope) who went to Ohio, Fanny Kemble who wrote about the slavery she encountered in Georgia, Harriet Martineau and her life in Massachusetts, Isabella Bird's encounters in the Rockies and Catherine Hubback, neice of Jane Austen, who rode the new railroad out to San Francisco.

Of these, I preferred the latter two chapters out in the far west of America, but was also fascinated with the tales of Fanny Kemble and her horrific life married to a very aggresive husband and his attitude to slavery. I was however disapppointed that the first three chapters all had well over 30 pages yet the chapter about Rebecca only contained 17 pages.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mrs Lorraine Starkey on 14 April 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a great read, and I chose it as I love travelling to America, and enjoy reading about interesting and innovative women. It's colourful and informative and I became quite engrossed in it! So inspiring, as even when events didn't quite go to plan for some, the book highlights the courage and determination of the human spirit, when faced with adversity. So good to have the female perspective on the pioneering spirit, in what was often, a dangerous and lawless time. Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
I love the old stories and history of the frontier from wagon trains, how people survived, Native Americans to the gold rush. So I thought O My America! was very suitable reading to take with me on a trip to the USA.

Unlike most books I read this is a factual book. Sara tells the stories of 6 women in the 1800’s who set out to America for new experiences, fortune and to enjoy life with new freedom in a new country. We meet Fanny Trollope who goes to America for fortune, Fanny Kemble who follows her heart but learns life is unfair for women and the cruel reality of slave plantations, Harriet Martineau who was after experiences for her books, Rebecca Burland who lives the harsh life of a settler farming family, Isabella Bird who was a true adventurer and Catherine Hubback who followed her children to make a new life in America.

Sara has done a lot of research into their lives and the detail she includes means we have a small bio of each and really get to know them. They are individuals in their own right, have different experiences and some we like and some not so much. But overall they are strong, determined women in a man’s world. America has given them the opportunity to try and create new lives, and escape the constraints of British society. America is a new land on the frontier where there is a mix of people who are experiencing the same hardship or joy as everyone else.

My favourite person in this book is Isabella Bird as she was a true woman adventurer. At home she was sickly but with some freedom she was determined, fearless and tried anything. She is an inspiration to go live life to the full and enjoy it and I recommend definitely reading her story. She is someone who you would want to know and listen to her amazing tales.
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