Friday, January 20, 2017

The 306 Greatest Books #143 - The Last of the Mohicans

The next up on my reading of the 306 greatest books is The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper. This book can be found on the Sybervision Book List and My Book List.

I am conflicted about how I feel about The Last of the Mohicans. In one respect, this book is beautifully written with prose that just oozes with descriptions giving the reader a wonderfully rich experience that isn't overly cumbersome to dive through. On the other hand, this book is horribly racist towards Native Americans, displaying them as "brutal savages" who don't know any better. It is possible to view this book as a product of its time. If this were written today, it wouldn't make it passed the editor's office before being rejected outright. However, at the time it was written, this is how people thought (I assume). It's not even all of the Native American's which are depicted as moral-less savages, but they are all given pretty short shrift. I enjoyed the book though, once I was able to get beyond that. The story is basically divided into two parts. The first part is about a group of "white people" trying to make it to Fort William McHenry on Lake George in New York with the help of the last two Mohicans. I know this area very well, since some of my family is from there and I've been to this fort. So this part of the story was fun for me. I could picture the scenes in my head. However, the story was also rather confusing at times, especially keeping all the people straight. Cooper calls the main characters and tribes by different names frequently and alternates with just the first names or just the last names to the point that it took me about 100 pages before I was certain who was who and how many people were actually in the story. The second part of the story they travel up north and I won't go into any more for the risk of spoiling it for someone who may be interested in reading it. I found the ending though very satisfactory and the author didn't pull any punches. Overall, even with the poor representation of the Native Americans, I think this was a very well written, good story. It plays more as a historical reenactment than a work of fiction, and I think that is what helped me get through the racist elements. So I feel that I can recommend this book.

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