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California Dons: Recollections of Life on a California Rancho Over a Century Ago Hardcover – 1967

4 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Valley Publishers (1967)
  • ASIN: B001TZZXV6
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #332,391 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
California as we know it today was largely formed during the rancho period of the first half of the 19th century. The political boundaries, place names, and land ownership that were established at that time have persisted down to the present and have profound influence to this day. Yet, that period is largely ignored in literature. You can find history books about the mission period that preceded it, and the gold rush that followed, but the rancho period is relatively ignored when you consider its importance. Historical fiction for this period is especially hard to find. Except for the occasional Zorro story, my efforts to find a book set in this period have been frustrated.

California Dons comes close to filling the bill. It's based on the recollections of a person who grew up on a rancho in San Juan Bautista in the mid-19th century. Technically, California was a state by this time, but large swaths of California were still culturally spanish and mexican for years afterwards.

The story does shed some light on what it was like on a rancho of that period, providing details of the layout and workings of homes and ranchos. You do get a feel for the way horsemanship was a highly valued skill and the importance of family in the community. Unfortunately, the story is told in a rather stilted and disjointed manner, as if a series of anecdotes were simply strung together. As a result, there really isn't much of a story. For example, between the end of one chapter and the beginning of the next, the important event of the death of the main character's father occurs. You would think this event would merit some mention.

The casual violence and cruelty seems rather surprising when viewed from the 21st century, but it does lend an air of exoticism, making it clear that was a very different time.

My search for a good history book, fiction or otherwise, about the California rancho period goes on.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Good book on early California, had never seen this one before and it is a good read. The author has done their research!
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