Friday, January 21, 2011

Half Broke Horses

I started this book with high hopes because I love stories about pioneer women and their lives of courage and optimism.  But I ended up not liking it very well.

It is a memoir of the author's grandmother,  Lily Casey Smith, written in the first person (the voice of the grandmother) in novel form.  In the first place, I was misled by the title and some of the blurbs..  It is not really a pioneer story, since the protagonist was born in  1901 and the gist of the story takes place from that time  through the 30's and early 40's.  She was one tough lady and would have survived splendidly through the Westward migration and the settling of the West, but she was not a likeable character.  Or even very believable in some cases.  The book is larded with episodes where Lily outsmarts anyone who tries to cross her.  County sheriffs, schoolboard members, Mormon elders, smartass cowboys, drunks, city slickers.....none of them are a match for ol' Lily.  Whether with her trusty revolver, a turn-the-tables stunt, or just a smart quip, she  dispatches them all.  I found it tiresome.  She was a whiskey-drinking, poker-playing, horse-breaking school marm and she sure had guts, but I did not find her admirable or ultimately very interesting.  (Did I forget to mention that she also learned to fly a plane?)

I certainly won't say that this is a bad book, just that it was not one that appealed to me.  It got good reviews and was on the New York Times Bestseller list, so it's up to you.

Half Broke Horses    Jeannettte Walls    Scribner

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