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Shane Paperback – March 18, 2014
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"If you read only one western in your life, this is the one."—Roland Smith, author of Peak
"Shane is a work of literature first and a Western second."—St. George Daily Spectrum
"A real superiority here."—Kirkus Reviews
"Its pace is steady. Its tension is of the uncoiling spring variety. It’s as clean as a hound's tooth."—Saturday Review of Literature
"The author has created a tale which captivates the reader’s attention from beginning to end. . . . The book almost demands completion in one sitting."—Library Journal
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I did not have hope or excitement when I picked this up for the first time, which was wrong of me. Why did I assume a western would be boring? I don't think I had even read a western before. From the beginning I got sucked into the mystery of Shane, and then the suspense of the story as tensions and threats grew in their town. After finishing the book I watched the movie yesterday, but I felt the book was much better. Perhaps because with books you can let your imagination make the characters and setting your own.
I always thought westerns made people out to be the good guy/bad guy, simple as that. But as in life, the characters in the book show that it's not so simple to judge, and a person can change. That sometimes the good vs bad, right vs wrong judgements aren't so simple either. The book shows a time in our history, being that it starts in 1889, and gives you a much more personal idea of what it was like back then.
Shane is a man with a dark past that he’d like to forget. He stops at a small farm for water for his horse when Joe Starrett and young son Bob prevail upon him to stay awhile. He extends that stay, at their kind urging and quickly comes to view them as a kind of surrogate family and a strong bond forms between them.
But it wasn’t to last. A Rancher, Luke Fletcher, intends to buy, or, if necessary, steal the land from the homesteaders, who are unofficially led by Starrett.
Confrontation ensues. Read the book. ;-)
The story is seen through the eyes of 8-year-old Bob Starrett, so it’s superficially an unsophisticated narrator, but we soon become aware that it is an older, wiser Bob who is actually recounting it from memory.
That allowed for both fresh, innocent eyes, and a more sophisticated understanding behind it.
In a forward by Jack Schaefer, he remarks that, though he initially sided with the farmers, in later years he regretted the loss of those vast open ranch lands. That Revenge of the Sith sequel was never written.
A simple style of writing that suited the story. Found this one to be a bit of a "tear jerker" actually. Not a lengthy read by any means. The author managed to convey much with a minimum of fuss. Loved it to bits. Time and money well spent.
This is the first Western I've ever read, and I had no idea what to expect beyond the very vague theme of "cowboys". I really enjoyed this! Shane is told from the perspective of a young boy (and at first, I thought this book would span over a larger period of his life...mostly because I can't remember the last book I read from the perspective of a kid who wasn't tasked with saving the world or something equally as wild), and the titular Shane is a mysterious man who comes to his farm and ends up staying with his family for a time. Shane has a dark past, which is only really referenced in his ability to kick anyone and everyone's ass when necessary.
The villain of this novel is a rancher(?) who wants the homesteaders (like our narrator Bob and his family) off of his land; this villain is so different from the majority of villains in books I've read recently, as he's just a man and a realistic one at that.
I definitely read the relationship between Bob's parents and Shane as bordering on polyamorous. I doubt this was intentional at the time, but they all seemed to fall in love with each other (and when Bob's father thought he was going to die, he gave Shane and Bob's mother his blessing).
Top international reviews
This was Jack Schaefer’s first novel, published in book form in 1949, although it had appeared in the past as it was originally serialised under the title ‘Rider from Nowhere’ from July – October 1946 in Argosy magazine.
If you strip this down to the skeleton of the plot you will at once realise that this uses the winning formula created by Zane Grey, which has not only served the Western genre but has appeared in other genres as well over the years. Although Schaefer went on to write other stories it will always be this one that is fondly remembered, and that made his name.
Narrated by Bob Starrett, he lives on a small farm with his parents, in Wyoming. Under the Homestead Act of 1862 the Starretts as with others have taken land to live, grow crops and put out cattle to pasture, but at the same time there was also the open range, thus friction being created between the two. For Fletcher who owns a lot of cattle he is trying to oust the homesteaders so he can continue using what is their land to carry on grazing his livestock.
Then one day a stranger rides up to the Starrett home, a man who calls himself Shane. We know by his clothes that he is not a farmer, although he does stay and help Bob’s dad on the farm. We also know that he is polite, intelligent and by the description of his gun, a gunslinger. So with Shane joining those who want to remain on their homesteads has Fletcher met his match?
Bob very soon idolises Shane and as this is a boy still growing up so things that he sometimes tells us of are slightly over his head. He doesn’t take in the subtleties that an older reader notices, only taking in the more blatant signs. It is this that gives this a feel of authenticity and makes us carry on reading, seeing the world through the narrator’s eyes. And thus this does contain symbolism and even at times a biblical feel, and reminding us all that at times we have to stand up and be counted, to prevent rights and people being stamped all over.
Reading this now all these years later I can see through the power of the writing why bits of this have remained with me, and this is just a great read now as way back then.
I am glad I came back to this book. I enjoyed it more today, I think, than I did at the first reading all those years ago.
And all packed into well under 200 pages.
As with Hombre it's difficult to avoid thinking about the movie, and I kept wondering why Hollywood dressed Alan Ladd in buckskins, when the Shane of the novel is clearly a well dressed man in black!