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The Valley of the Giants: 05/24/09

The Valley of the Giants by San Francisco author Peter B. Kyne is set on the edge of Humboldt Bay in the fictional town of Sequoia. It's located roughly where the "day time headlights" section of the 101 stretches between Eureka and Arcata California.

The novel follows the ups and downs of the Cardigan family from the founding of the logging town through the on-going rivalry with Col. Pennington over logging rights and other business matters. While the book starts in 1850, most of the plot is "present day" (roughly 1917-8) and focuses on the romance and rivalry of the second generation: Bryce Cardigan and Shirley Sumner (niece of Col. Pennington).

With a book written by a local author (whose influence is still felt in the Bay Area, all the way out to Tracy) and a setting in an area I know and love, it was hard to just take the fiction as fiction. Like Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone series set in a town based on Santa Barbara, Kyne's Sequoia picks and chooses its landmarks on recognizable places. To confuse things though Kyne places his town in proximity to real locations (Arcata being mentioned). He even includes a map page 37 which lost me an hour or so playing with Google maps even though I know the town is made up!

The Valley of the Giants is not exactly a romance. It mostly focuses on the business aspects of running the mill in a time of financial crisis while trying to preserving some of the old growth forest for future generations. The old growth forest is the "Valley of the Giants" that the book takes its name from. It is reminiscent of course of the Avenue of the Giants which runs parallel with 101 in a stretch south of Eureka.

Kyne's novel has been adapted for film four times: in 1919, in 1927, in 1938 and finally very loosely in 1952 as The Big Trees. If you've seen the The Big Trees, Shirley Sumner is first and foremost a business woman. She is not a Quaker there to save the trees. Although she does ultimately help in saving them her reasons are in no way religiously motivated. Of these adaptations, only the 1938 and 1952 versions are readily available. I would personally prefer to see either the 1919 or 1927 versions as they sound like the closest adaptations to the book. The book though is still available in reprint and through Project Gutenberg.

The approximate location of Sequoia

Comments (4)

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Comment #1: Wednesday, May, 27, 2009 at 13:56:18


I usually enjoy reading books placed in areas I know well- unless they obviously change things, then I find it annoying. The mixed up landmarks would probably get under my skin, too.

Comment #2: Thursday, May 28, 2009 at 22:56:21


Totally fictional places like Sequoia in The Valley of the Giants don't bother me. What does is when a real place has its landmarks mangled; Sausilto being made part of San Francisco or South Pasadena being merged with Pasadena, for example.

Comment #3: Thursday, May, 28, 2009 at 21:09:21


Wonderful choice for a FREE book in 9 for '09.

Thanks for the map.

Comment #4: Thursday, May 28, 2009 at 22:59:12


Thanks! I'm glad you liked the map. I try to include them when a book is set in a definite location.

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