Customer Review

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a classic, but-, June 19, 2005
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This review is from: Wyoming (Gunsmoke Western Series) (Hardcover)
This book deserves much better than the superficial, stereotypical review it's got so far. As a western, it probably wouldn't rate very high. But its attraction (for me) lies in its unusual depth, unusual for a western, at any rate. In my opinion, this novel is more about the disgust of the main character (Andrew Bonning) towards shallow thrill-seeking modern women. He believes that he's found the epitome of this species when, during his journey west to escape his life of failure back east, he comes upon a girl who's hitch-hiking to Wyoming. After one or two more casual meetings with 'Wyoming mad' (as he calls her) on the way, which only serve to confirm his low opinion of her, he ends up in Randall, Wyoming in the service of a poor rancher who's being bled to death by cattle rustlers. Imagine his surprise when Wyoming mad, the rancher's niece, turns up at the same place.

The book is a study of Bonning's cynical and superior attitude towards this trusting, fun-loving girl, even as he falls for her. The main theme of the book (again, in my opinion), viz, the attitude of men, (in the words of one of the characters- 'When a girl can't lift her eyes or smile without some fool feller thinkin' she wants him to grab her-') is handled very well throughout. Though some of the scenes do ring rather false, especially one where Martha (Wyoming mad) catches a cowpuncher branding one of her uncle's calves. She ends up reforming the puncher and riding back to the ranch with him, only to have Bonning doubt her motives and get into a fist-fight with the puncher.

The descriptions of the natural beauty of Wyoming are good, bringing out the pioneering spirit of the main characters that brings them, tenderfoot easterners the both of them, to the west. Bonning and Martha change the rancher's luck, saving him from ruin at the hands of the sneaky McCall and his hired rustlers. Yet it is the story of this star-crossed couple which really holds up the book, which serves as a reassurance that in this (as in any other) age of calculating cynicism, there are still girls who might take a man's hand or lay their heads on his shoulder; and shame on the men who read in this anything other than an innocent need for friendly reassurance and support. Yet the novel equally serves as a warning to women, that in a male-dominated world, like it or not, they *are* restricted by their gender, and would do well, in their quest for freedom, not to attempt to do everything that men could do with impunity (like hitch rides from strangers all the way to the west, for instance).

The prose style is a little stale in parts, and the author seems not to be able to handle dialogue very well. The storyline is somewhat lacking in originality (though like I said, it's not really the story that makes this book), and the lesser characters aren't very well developed. Imagine a typical well-endowed hero and heroine, a matchmaking old couple, the archtypical underdog rancher facing a cookie-cutter villain and crooked sheriff, and you've got a good idea of the storyline. This is definitely not a classic; but it is certainly a book worth reading and reading again.
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