Jessie, the favorite daughter of Missouri senator Thomas Hart Benton, grows up working with her father, breathing politics, and believing it is America’s manifest destiny to rule from Atlantic to Pacific.
Immortal Wife: The Biographical Novel
of Jessie Benton Fremont by Irving Stone
Doubleday, 1944. 450 pages. 1945 bestseller # 10. My Grade: B-.
At 16, Jessie falls in love with John Fremont, a military topographer ambitious to make a name for himself that would override the tinge of his illegitimate origins.
Jesse is determined to make her marriage stronger than either of them.
John leads four expeditions to map the unexplored frontier so settlers could move west to keep the Spanish and British from annexing the Pacific Coast. He wins the respect of people on the frontier – and the displeasure of politicians in Washington.
John’s career is a series of great exploits and monumental failures.
He makes and loses a fortune in gold mining.
He is defeated in the 1860 presidential race, even though he wins more votes than the winner.
Lincoln strips Fremont of his command in the early days of the Civil War.
After John dies, Jessie reflects that she never understood him.
Readers will feel that they don’t understand Jessie either.
Irving Stone makes the period history interesting, but he fails to make his heroine come alive.
© 2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni
Photo credit: public domain via Wikimedia Commons