Kukla, Jon. A wilderness so immense: the Louisiana Purchase and the destiny of America. Knopf, 2003. 430p bibl index ISBN 0-375-40812-6, $30.00.
Choice: “a very readable and well-illustrated story…Recommended. All collections.” Magill Book Reviews: “In Kukla’s adept hands, the story of the Louisiana Purchase reads like a Dickens novel.” Kirkus: “thoroughly detailed…a worthy additional contribution to the burgeoning literature, timed for the bicentennial of Mr. Jefferson’s vast acquisition.” Publishers Weekly: “Until a better one comes along, which is unlikely, this is now the book to read of the growing crop of works on the Louisiana Purchase in this bicentennial year…a splendid, beautifully written narrative…Unlike many other historians, Kukla favors none of the story’s characters but evenhandedly gives all their due. The book lacks only a grand theme to match its subject…Nevertheless, this judicious, aptly illustrated work will gratify all its readers. Rarely does a work of history combine grace of writing with such broad authority.” Library Journal: “richly detailed…a balanced account…heavily mines the documentary sources…Kukla’s book, with its colorful personalities and more accessible narrative, may work better in public libraries, though academic libraries should consider as well.” New Republic: “not an original account, but as exciting and readable a narrative of the Louisiana Purchase as we are likely to get in the foreseeable future…good old-fashioned history-storytelling in the Henry Adams tradition…fascinating…one wishes that he had spent some times describing in detail this diverse and compolicated society of New Orleans, and the myriad and convoluted way sit dealt with racial and ethinc mixture in the decade leading up to Louisiana’s statehood in 1812.” Booklist: “Readers looking for an analytical edge or historical revisionism won’t find it here, and Kukla’s casual language may annoy academics, but history buffs will enjoy the level of detail, and the uninitiated will enjoy the thorough explanations of background events like the French Revolution. Overall, this selection is an engaging look at a key historical event, in time for its bicentennial.” American Historical Review: “engaging and authoritative…Kukla is at his best in reconstructing the politics and diplomacy of the purchase. His emphasis on the centrality of the Haitian revolution does not break new ground, although his mastery of developments (and sources) in European capitals as well as in New Orleans is unparalleled…Kukla’s mastery of this complex narrative only falters when the ‘destiny’ of his book’s subtitle comes into view.