Books: Sandlappers

FIRST THE BLADE—May Merrill Miller—Knopf ($3).

In most pioneer novels it is the first long years that are hardest on the pioneers, easiest on the reader. Reversing this order is First the Blade, a 631-page novel of the "Sandlappers" who settled California's semi-arid San Joaquin Valley. For the first 150 pages, which move as slowly as a covered wagon slogging over the plains, it is the reader who suffers most. This beginning goes way back to the heroine's girlhood in Missouri; and although the Civil War figures in her adolescence, the...

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