Monday, July 7, 2014

Code of the West - Follow up

What an utter disappointment.

I was really geared to like this book. This is the book I was looking forward to the most after Mr. Blettsworthy.  The opening caught your interest, the descriptions of the landscape made me nostalgic (grew up in El Paso, TX), but the characters were so flat they just couldn't follow through. To be honest, instead of reading about Georgiana and Cal, I would've like to hear more about Enoch and Mary - Georgiana's sister. But let me back up a few paces here.

Here's a synopsis of the story from Amazon.com, which I probably should have read but in the interest of this project I'd like to go into these books as unbiased as possible. Georgianna Stockwell, a free-spirited young woman from the East, moves to the wilds of the Tonto Basin in Arizona and she creates a violent culture clash. She revels in a whirlwind of flirtations and coquetry, outraging the proud Western folk and violating their Code of Honour, Her presence is provocative to all young men in the Basin, but to Cal Thurman in particular she is "like a firebrand in prairie grass." Through Cal she finds a love she does not expect - and a heritage of violence she cannot control. 

Sounds exciting right? A Violent Culture Clash? What is that! I'll tell you though, its not half as interesting as it sounds. The violence is barely existent until the last 30 - 20 pages of the book. Like I said earlier, the story starts out great. Mary Stockwell plays a joke on the boys at the ranch she boards at by asking them to pick up her dour looking sister. Of course, Georgiana is absolutely gorgeous but the boys don't know that. The book is all fun until Georgiana arrives, and then it goes downhill from there. Now granted by the time he wrote Code of the West, Zane Grey was pumping out books at a pace of 1 to 2 books a year. Naturally when you're producing books at that rate, the quality is bound to flag. But once Georgiana arrives, every single person in the book loses any semblance of a character. Cal is a sullen cowboy in love, Georgiana is a flirtatious urban girl, and every other person in the book - except Tuck Merry - is a cowboy looking for trouble.

Perhaps even worse than the bad storytelling, is the insult the book makes towards feminists. One minute Georgiana is all full of fire and feminism, set on having her way. But the second that Cal acts like a caveman and literally kidnaps her to make her marry him, she has a change of heart and can suddenly understand why western women are the way they are. Suddenly she understands how to manage the home and she was made for that her whole life. Also, she's completely unable to be angry at Cal for kidnapping her and forcing her into marriage and she grows to realize she's always loved him.

In the midst of this pathetic dribble is the violence of Cal beating another young cowboy Bid Hatfield for saying slanderous things about his "now" wife. (Well more like trying to beat.) When he returns home bruised and broken, Georgiana resolves to make everything right that her scandalous flirting has ruined! On the one hand, her actions are satisfying because she takes Tuck Merry and has her say about Bid Hatfield right there in front of his boss. Way to stand up for herself! On the other hand, Tuck Merry beats the living daylights out of Bid, so so much for the strong girl rectifying everything on her own.

I will most likely never read another Zane Grey novel again. Luckily, there are no others on my list. I like to think that my Great Grandfather also didn't care for the books. But I figure that's rather modern wishful thinking. Although, from the small time I knew him, my Great Grandfather did seem like a forward thinking man. I leave that question to be settled for the next book, Roots by Alex Haley. As it has been on my own list for a while I can't wait to cross it off.

'Till the next book, patient readers.