Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Book Review Club: Betty Zane by Zane Grey

Self published in 1903, this sweeping historical novel is the story of Grey's ancestors and their role in the siege of Fort Henry (now Wheeling, West Virginia), the last battle of the American Revolution. Betty was the youngest of the Zanes and the only girl. She played a decisive role in the outcome of the siege when she ran from the blockhouse to her brother's cabin and back with much-needed gunpowder. High-spirited and impulsive, she may be the model for the "feisty" historical heroine. The book tells the story of her courtship by young Alfred Clarke but the course of true love doesn't go smoothly. It also details the story of Betty's brother Isaac who spent many years in Indian captivity and was beloved of a Huron princess.

The Macmillan paperback blurb says: Inspired by the life and adventures of his own great-great grandmother,Betty Zane was Zane Grey's first novel and launched his career as a master writer of rousing frontier and Western adventures.

This isn't entirely correct since Grey himself says that he was descended from Ebenezer Zane, Betty's oldest brother. That makes her his great great aunt. (Not sure how many greats.)

I bought one of the inexpensive e-book versions for the Kindle, and though there were some transcription errors, I enjoyed it a lot. It's still a ripping good story with some very exciting scenes. Characterization is good and the country is described in loving detail. Reminiscent of The Last of the Mohicans, but with a happy ending.

Here's one of the early hardback covers:

Zane Grey is widely considered the father of the Western novel. He was born in Zanesville, Ohio in 1872 and died on Catalina Island in 1939. According to Western Author David Whitehead, his Westerns were the most historically accurate. Whitehead's overview of the genre is quite interesting.

Betty Zane is still available in paperback as well as e-book format and you might find a copy at your local library.


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Alyssa Goodnight said...

The only girl...that must have been a little difficult. No wonder she was feisty. :)

Thanks for the review. Sounds like it would make for a good movie.

Linda McLaughlin said...

Patti, I've only read a few westerns, too, but I'd read more Zane Grey.

Alyssa, you're right, this would make a good movie.

Teresa said...

Thanks for the review, Linda. I love the cover.

Staci said...

My grandfather loved Zane Grey and I'm sure he's the reason why I love to read. Betty Zane sounds like a great story...I hope to find a copy of this one!

Linda McLaughlin said...

You'd like this one, Teresa.

Staci, hope you can find it. Try the library.

Sarah Laurence said...

How cool to find a self-published book from 1903 now on Kindle! I loved seeing the old cover. Interesting review!

BTW, Barrie accidentally linked to last month’s review on my blog. Here’s the link to April’s book review and interview of The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters.

Beth Yarnall said...

My grandma was the youngest on nine and the only girl, can you imagine? Thanks for a wonderful review, I'll have to check this one out!

Linda McLaughlin said...

Sarah, I thought it was an interesting reminder that self-publishing has been around a lot longer than POD! I'll check out your April review, too.

Beth, eight brother? OMG. Not sure I'd have survived that. Was your grandma a tomboy or a pampered princess? Betty Zane was a bit of both.

Keri Mikulski said...

Never read a western, but I think I should.. Nice review!! :)

Barrie said...

How very interesting. I loved all the little details in this review. Who knew he'd died on Catalina?!

Linda McLaughlin said...

Keri, I'm not sure this qualifies as a Western, since it's set in West Virginia and is, in my view, more historical fiction than genre fiction. But I would recommend Zane Grey if you decide to try a Western.

Barrie, according to Wikipedia, Grey's former home on Catalina is now the Zane Grey Pueblo Hotel. I just may have to make a pilgrimage one of these days. :)

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