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Letters from Yellowstone (Paperback)

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A young woman attending Cornell in 1898 longs to join a botanical expedition in Yellowstone National Park. She is invited to do so by the professor who assumes the student who wrote to him, "A. E. Bartram" is male. Rather than becoming a tedious comedy of mistaken identity, this lovely, short novel does not dwell on that but instead proceeds with the story of how Alex contributes to the expedition and also learns how much she values her freedom and individuality.

I particularly enjoyed this epistolary novel's form; one has to read between the lines of the letters sent between the major characters to get the whole story.

No car chases here, but it was definitely my idea of a good summer read!


— From Jill's favorites


In the spring of 1898, A. E. (Alexandria) Bartram--a spirited young woman with a love for botany--is invited to join a field study in Yellowstone National Park. The study's leader, a mild-mannered professor from Montana, assumes she is a man, and is less than pleased to discover the truth. Once the scientists overcome the shock of having a woman on their team, they forge ahead on a summer of adventure, forming an enlightening web of relationships as they move from Mammoth Hot Springs to a camp high in the backcountry. But as they make their way collecting amid Yellowstone's beauty the group is splintered by differing views on science, nature, and economics. In the tradition of A. S. Byatt's Angels and Insects and Andrea Barrett's Ship Fever, this delightful novel captures an ever-fascinating era and one woman's attempt to take charge of her life.

About the Author

Diane Smith has worked for the last fifteen years as a writer specializing in science and the environment. Her first novel, Letters from Yellowstone, was the winner of the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Fiction Prize and was nominated in the fiction category for the Mountains and Plains Booksellers Book Awards.
Product Details
ISBN: 9780140291810
ISBN-10: 0140291814
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication Date: June 1st, 2000
Pages: 226
Language: English