It took me more than a year to slog through it. I'm astonished that a human being could actually write a tome chock full with information about such a great and fascinating time and culture. Admittedly there were times that I thought I would give up in some of the less interesting parts, but I feel I am a better man and reader for not doing so. Almost want to read it again, but I'll wait until I turn 70.
I was really enjoying this one from the very beginning, and it was filled with great literary promise: in the dark Middle Ages, two young men from England on a journey to China by way of the Mid-East. By the middle of the novel I started losing interest--the writing at that point was flat, and the plot itself had reached a snail's pace; I just didn't have the patience to ride it out. On a positive note, I think I'm developing a kindred spirit with my students: a short attention span.
The book offers the perspective of North America from--just what the titles says--an Englishwoman, and her observations are very interesting with its comparisons to her own Britain as well as revealing of her own background and class consciousness. After a while, it did become rather wearisome with her parallels between the two countries and moralizing. It was written in the 1850s, but offers a glimpse into a time and place.
I found this work to be very current to our post-911 age. Having read one of Silva's novels years ago, I was pleasantly surprised to see how well he continually writes in this genre. Toward the end of the novel, Gabriel's revenge tends to take some time, and that's the only negative I can think of.
I finally completed it, and what a long strange trip it's been.Before beginning my trek, I was somewhat familar with The Odyssey as a major work in Western Literature, one that has spawned influences in other literary works and drama.It was slow going at first, what with the whole medias res thing and trying to get a bead on the characters and time placement. and Telemachus's search,and of course, Odysseus's trails and tribulations. I was struck by the violence, most especiallythe staggering unmerciless detailed killing of the suitors and servants upon Odysseus'sreturn to Ithaca. I would read it again; a work of this magnitude should be read more than once if only to grasp the continual width and panorama of it. Just the encounters with thecreatures alone make my mind boggle at the imaginative creativity involved to envision such a thing.
Fenimore writes with sentimental flair which can certainly annoy and irritate:1) the lofty narrative tone 2) the ornate convoluted language 3) the unconvincing dialogue 4) the unconvincing, one-dimensional characterization, and these are all there to repell any reader.However, there were times in my reading that I no longer had that plodding feeling, and I contribute that loss of annoyance to a few factors as the plot unfolded.The setting: I found Fenimore’s description of the lush and dense foliage, the mountains, and the landscape of the early upper state New York wilderness as interesting and detailed, serving as a convincing foundation and revealing it as very much an obstacle in the French and Indian War. The culture: Fenimore delves into the various customs and tribal politics of the Hurons and Delawares. Yes, the scalping is all there, but it's the inter-personal relationships and how they are dealt with between Chigachgook and the Hurons. And of course, Hawkeye, clearly a man who has cast off civilation, preferring to live with the confines of the wilderness where contamination of western society are far and few between. When the sentimental language tended to be a bit much (which was frequent) I would remind myself that the novel was geared toward entertaining current readers of that time (with no i-pods and computers, something to bear in mind). There were a few times in the novel I found myself confused to what was happening, but strove on. I can't say this was an enjoyable read; I can say it was an unusual reading experience, and for the most part a painless one. It could have been worse--it could have been Faulkner. I actually have a desire to read the rest of The Leather Stocking Tales.