I Have Seen the Fire
This was, for me, an odd book. It is a novel inspired by the life of a pioneer woman known to readers previously only through her journal. The author has fleshed out Sarah Royce’s life so we can see her as a real person facing the privations of pioneer life as her rather feckless husband drags her around the country in search of the “better life” and to make his fortune. The journey from their home in Iowa seeking California gold is hair-raising. Sarah’s insistence that they don’t travel on Sundays almost fatally delays them, and the vivid details of their difficulties, the country they travel through, and the problems they face make fascinating reading.
I’m not sure whether the novel was intended to be inspirational, as there is much mention of Sarah’s faith and her gift of a vision of God, yet I found nothing inspirational about her story. She was not exceptional; I have read several similar pioneer non-fiction works. Perhaps this is mainly a novel about friendship, or courage, of which Sarah has plenty. However the ending, for me, was highly unsatisfactory. Alas, if I discuss my reasons here I will spoil the novel for others. Sufficient to say that I found Sarah’s attitude to the information revealed in the last pages quite amazing and unbelievable.
Yet the novel is an excellent account of pioneer life and has much to recommend it as a resource for those who are studying the period or enjoy reading about their pioneering history.