cover image The Bear Flag: A Novel of the Birth of California

The Bear Flag: A Novel of the Birth of California

Cecelia Holland. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $19.95 (422pp) ISBN 978-0-395-48886-7

John Charles Fremont, here depicted as an arrogant map-maker, and his imperturbable scout Kit Carson are among the historical figures who shape a turbulent history of California in this lusty pioneer saga by veteran novelist Holland ( The Lords of Vaumartin ). Sharing the stage with them is a fictional character, Cat Reilly--a principled young woman from Boston who crosses the Sierra in grueling winter with a hardy band of settlers seeking the proverbial golden opportunity. During this trek by wagon train, Cat's young husband is killed. The party eventually arrives at Sutter's Fort in the thriving Yankee settlement known as New Helvetia, itself a remnant of an earlier encampment. Cat throws her considerable energies into the community's struggle for existence and the state's struggle for official recognition, becoming a prime mover in raising the bear flag over the Republic of California in 1846. The warfare that led to California's founding is chronicled with historical accuracy and passionate protagonists, illuminating our not-always-glorious national evolution. (June)