When I was offered a free review copy of this novel, I jumped to accept, drawn in by the beautiful cover and the story of the novel's origin: the imagining of a back-story behind the antique diaries of the key character, Rosette.
Although I'm English, I have always loved Laura Ingalls Wilder's fictionalised memoirs of her childhood as an early American pioneer, and so I was already primed to enjoy this novel. I found it fascinating to see how Marsch interspersed extracts from authentic antique diaries with the novel (her own writing is at least 95% of the text, by the way). She also broadened the scope by writing from other characters' viewpoints, to create a vivid and absorbing picture of the life of pioneers, building their own new town, society and country around them.
Her use of language is superb, echoing the phraseology of the time without sounding stagey, which makes the diary extracts blend seamlessly with Marsch's own text. Her description of daily life in that society fills one with admiration for the pluck, spirit and determination of its people, while also making them seem very real and easy to relate to for the modern reader.
The balance of the novel was not quite as I expected - I had thought there would be more detail about the breakdown of Rosette's marriage, but this is handled relatively quickly towards the end, and quite subtly. I had expected it to be more the core of a novel, and for it almost to feel like a mystery story. However, I enjoyed the novel so much, that I didn't really mind - I just felt slightly wrong-footed.