Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Riders of the Purple Sage--Zane Grey

Genre: Western/Classic
Year Published: 1912
Pages: 358
Rating: 3.5

A sharp clip-clop of iron shod hoofs deadened and died away, and clouds of yellow dust drifted from under the cottonwoods out over the sage.

I was surprised by this book. It was surprisingly readable, considering it was written in the early 1900s--1912, to be exact--and that westerns have never really been my genre. But really it was a lot of fun to read. Dramatic and romantic, heavily outdated, but fun. The story centers around Jane Withersteen, a Mormon woman who has inherited a ranch and riches from her father. The Mormon men in her small Utah town are unhappy with Jane's independence, and more so with her friendliness to the Gentiles (meaning non-Mormons. This confused me greatly, since it actually means non-Jew, but apparently the Mormons actually regard themselves as Isrealite descendants: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gentile#Latter-day_Saints_Church_usage) who the church members shun. When Jane refuses to marry Elder Tull her real problems begin. Her cattle and horses disappear, her workers quit, disappear, or turn out to be spies. Enter Lassiter, the gun-slinging hero of the range, who has come to take revenge for a loved-one's death but finds himself instead falling in love with Jane and her adopted daughter, Fay. The two of them are forced to make a stand, with only Jane's former employee (and previous love interest?) Benters, who has been holed up in the cliffs with a notorious cattle-rustler's "Masked Rider", who turns out to not be what everyone presumed.

There are many reasons I could have disliked this book: it reads like a soap opera, the plot is easy to figure out, the characters are simplistic and stereotypical, the Mormons are over-vilified, it's preachy, and horses die. But I didn't dislike it at all. The story was fun, and even after I knew what was going to happen I still wanted to read it. The female characters are surprisingly strong for the time, especially Jane (although she does faint). The romance is overdramatic and ridiculous, but not anymore so than in the Twilight series, and more enjoyable. This book has left me with visions of the barren wastes of the Utah cliffs, the wind rustling through the sage, and the proud and noble people riding into the sunset.

Book-a-week # 59
Date Read: 12/8/09
Challenge: Decades

No comments: