John (Marsden) Ehle (Jr.)

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Hal Borland

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America has had a succession of frontiers, each in turn a challenge to hardy, ambitious men and a trial to their women, each leaving its marks on the American character. History can only tell us what happened and when, but fiction such as this splendid novel can show how and why. "The Land Breakers" is one of the best recreations of our pioneer past that we have had in years, honest and compassionate, rich and true.

[Mr. Ehle] has many skills. His story moves—even when it seems to pause for sights and sounds and smells that taunt the senses, even when it deals with herbal lore. He has a sure sense of drama; the tension never falters, whether the immediate action is Lacey Pollard's return, a bear hunt, a livestock drive to market, or the birth of a baby. His characters are full-dimensioned, wholly credible. His dialogue, though it is often touched with poetry, sounds right as rain.

Often eloquent, it never moralizes….

"The Land Breakers" has a rare degree of greatness.

Hal Borland, "On the Carolina Frontier," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1964 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), February 23, 1964, p. 30.

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