The year is 1823, and the trappers of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company live a brutal frontier life. Trapping beaver, they contend daily with the threat of Indian tribes turned warlike over the white men's encroachment on their land, and other prairie foes -- like the unforgiving landscape and its creatures. Hugh Glass is among the Company's finest men, an experienced frontiersman and an expert tracker. But when a scouting mission puts him face-to-face with a grizzly bear, he is viciously mauled and not expected to survive. The Company's captain dispatches two of his men to stay behind and tend to Glass before he dies, and to give him the respect of a proper burial. When the two men abandon him instead, taking his only means of protecting himself -- including his precious gun and hatchet -- with them, Glass is driven to survive by one desire: revenge. With shocking grit and determination, Glass sets out crawling inch by inch across more than three thousand miles of uncharted American frontier, negotiating predators both human and not, the threat of starvation, and the agony of his horrific wounds. (Based on a true story.)
Loosely based off of historical events; Hugh Glass, a fur trapper travelling up the Missouri river in 1823, finds himself in a perilous situation. Having been brutally mauled by a bear, the captain of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company leaves two fur trappers behind to look over Hugh while he slowly dies and then give him a proper burial. Unwilling to wait for Hugh to succumb to death, the two trappers not only leave him on his own, but take his weapon and tools, ensuring that he will never survive. The betrayal spurs Hugh Glass into action, slowly he heals with only one thought on his mind, revenge. He will hunt down those who abandoned him and deal out his brand of wilderness revenge. Dodging wild animals, Native Americans, and the perilous winter, revenge is what he heals Hugh and keeps him going. An astoundingly fast paced read. Filled with death, despair, and survival, this will make you glad to live in modern times.
The author stays very close to the facts that are known about this event and delivers a spellbinding tale of survival and revenge. This was not the first time I have read about Hugh Glass, his story is also the basis for the 1954 National Book Award recipient, Lord Grizzly by Frederick Manfred, but even on the second reading, the details of this man’s survival are incredible. While Lord Grizzly delved into the actual survival story in greater detail, this book deals more with his pledge for retribution.
The Revenant is a great piece of historical fiction both entertaining and informative as well as an excellent adventure story about one man’s willpower and courage to survive against the odds.
Instead of dying Glass does survive. And at first agonizingly crawls and then finally walks in an epic quest to catch back up with the Company and the two men who betrayed him. Glass travels through a barely charted wilderness, hostile tribes and a brutal winter in an unforgettable quest for vengeance.
But as The Revenant, Michael Punke’s 2002 debut novel illustrates, Hugh Glass was just one of an estimated 3,000 “mountain men” and fur trappers who struggled so mightily to make their fortunes from the beaver population of the American West. Ironically enough, although these men were among the most independently minded ever produced in America, they were forced into a lifestyle of almost military precision for the sake of survival. The Indian tribes whose territory was plundered by the trappers reacted in different ways. Some were willing to live in peace with the invaders, others waged open warfare against them, and some joined the white men in waging war on other tribes. The problem was that the Indians were prone to changing their minds and allegiances almost from one day to the next.
In an environment like this, a man needed someone to watch his back. But when Hugh Glass most needed someone to do exactly that for him as he struggled to recover from the bear mauling, the two men left behind to help him abandoned him at the first hint of danger. Bad as that was, what Glass would never forgive was how John Fitzgerald and Jim Bridger robbed him of his rifle, powder, and knife before running off to catch up with the rest of their party – dooming him to an almost certain death.
A lesser man would have just given up and died, but Hugh Glass was not that kind of man. At first crawling only a few dozen yards a day, he began to track the two men he swore to himself he would kill. Eventually he managed to crawl two or three miles a day, then to walk ten miles a day, and finally he was covering twenty or thirty miles between sunrise and sunset. Glass did catch up with the two culprits, but when he did, things did not go quite the way he had expected.
The Revenant is Hugh Glass’s story – and Michael Punke tells it well.
And that would have been a shame, as it's a he** of a good read. What surprised me even more is that it's based on factual historical events and persons. (At the end of the book, I went online to suss out the real story - absolutely fascinating reading)
1823 America. Hugh Glass is one of the best trackers and frontiersmen around, working for The Rocky Mountain Fur Company. When he is severely mauled by a bear, his compatriots carry him as far as they can in the winter mountains. Company Commander Captain Henry pays two men - Fitzgerald and Bridger - to stay with Glass until he dies, then bury him properly. But Fitzgerald has different ideas..... he decides that staying with Glass isn't worth his while. He forces young Bridger to leave Glass to die on his own and the two take off. But not before they steal Glass's gun and knife, leaving him alone and exposed to the elements.
And here's where the revenge part comes into play......Glass is as tough as nails and bent on revenge. And he wants his gun back. What follows is a nail biting fight for his life as Glass begins crawling towards the fort two hundred miles away where Fitzgerald and Bridger are to meet up with the rest of the company.
Punke has brought in many factual events and people - the conflicts between the native tribes and the white men who have come to trap and settle their land. The wilderness and the men living in it are brilliantly described, but it is Hugh Glass who captures the reader. The injustice done to him and his single minded desire to seek revenge on Fitzgerald will have the reader on the edge of their seat, urging him to take one more breath, one more step forward until.....
As I said not my usual fare, but I absolutely loved it. Punke is an absolutely wonderful writer.
The book tells the story of real life frontiersman; Hugh Glass. Glass was a part of a fur trapping expedition and very early on in the book, he is attached and brutally mauled by a bear. Glass is left for dead. He somehow, however, survives and begins a long journey that he starts out crawling on his belly to try to catch up to the men who betrayed him. It starts out as a story of revenge, but ultimately becomes one of redemption. Certainly not a feel good read, but a worth while one. Excellent historical fiction, that skirts on the edge of narrative non-fiction.
I've said it before, but I wouldn't last 5 minutes living in the uncharted west of the 1820's.
S: 12/21/15 - F: 1/14/16 (16 Days)
It took a few chapters for me to get interested, but as soon as the attack happened, that caught my attention. I wasn't as interested in the info about how the men all got to be where they were. I found the parts that focused on Glass and his survival while he was on his own to be the most interesting to me. Although I mostly enjoy historical fiction, I find western-type historical fiction isn't always my “thing”, so I suspect that's (at least in part) why I didn't enjoy this more. There was a historical note, as Glass was a real person and the premise of the story really did happen; of course, the details the author filled in for the story are fictional.
Holter Graham is absolutely magnificent. His accents, foreign languages, inflections and character building are spot on. It was worth the time on this book just to listen to Holter. He saved this book from an otherwise dismal review.
Michael Punke is a self-identified history nerd who wanted to turn one of the incredible stories he'd stumbled upon in his hobby into a gripping historical novel, but would seem to have bitten off more than he was prepared to handle. This novel lacks any sort of character development, and many of the characters never become more than flat shapes with uncompelling dialogue. Punke never really explores the mindset of his hero - a man abandoned to die, surviving against all odds, and finding himself risking his own death just for revenge. The man who abandoned him is given even less development, the description of his rocky past exploits standing in for any justification or explanation of his actions or choices. Action falls flat as well, failing to make the reader feel any of the stakes involved through all of the danger the characters experience.
Punke embellishes a bare bones history with his own inventions, but it is difficult not to compare them to the same embellishments made by the film based on this novel. Where Punke invents white male traders as fodder for the arrows of natives, Alejandor Inarritu includes a wide variety of characters, including trappers, soldiers, and natives from various tribes and of varying dispositions towards the main cast of characters. Mostly this novel is left me wondering "What could have been?", a question for which the Oscar-winning film unfortunately had a better answer for.
4 stars, and recommended to all.