...this superb new book could not have come at a better time ... Laura Dassow Walls’s exuberant biography leaves the reader in no doubt how Thoreau might react to the current administration in Washington, filled as it is with people who deny the established physical science of global warming ... One of the many pleasures of Walls’s book is how it transports us back to America in the first half of the 19th century.
This new biography is the masterpiece that the gadfly of youthful America deserves ... her broad grasp of the era’s scientific issues integrates Thoreau’s dawning ecological conscience into a better-understood context than most writers on the topic can provide ... Walls is too well versed in Thoreau’s life to accept his own often contradictory pronouncements or his semi-fictional first-person narrator as necessarily factual. She teases out nuances and implications, but without unfounded speculation.
In her richly rewarding Henry David Thoreau: A Life, Laura Dassow Walls rescues Thoreau from the caricatures that have adhered to him since his most famous work was published ... Ms. Walls convincingly shows that Thoreau’s journals are his second great masterpiece. Here Thoreau finally overcame the influence of Emerson to become a meticulous observer of natural phenomena ... If the Thoreau beyond Walden is an author for our time, then Laura Dassow Walls is his biographer.