One of the twelve categories in Karen's Back to the Classics Challenge this year is "A Classic that's Been on Your TBR List the Longest". And originally, I planned on reading Anne Radcliffe's The Romance of the Forest, a book I bought years ago but never read. I even started it, but I just couldn't do it. Even though I liked both A Sicilian Romance and The Mysteries of Udolfo, I just couldn't get into this one. The text was too dense, the prose too wordy and boring. So I decided to switch books and read The Virginian by Owen Wister instead.
This book is one my Dad owned, and one I've long wanted to read. And I ended up really liking it. Written in 1902, It's set in Wyoming in the late 1800s. The main character is known only as the Virginian (because that's where he's from). He's described as being a tall, lean gentleman with dark hair and a way with horses. He's got a soft Southern drawl and a wicked sense of humor. He's also nomadic, single, and happy with his life. Until he meets the new young schoolteacher from Vermont, Molly Wood. Once he sees her, his whole world changes. She does not feel the same way about him, at least not at first. Molly has a proud and independent spirit, but the Virginian is persistent and hard to resist.
I thought this novel did an excellent job of capturing the spirit of the Old West, as well as depicting life as a cow-puncher in a mostly unsettled Wyoming. It's also a novel of friendship, honor, courage, courtship, and love. I was charmed by how the Virginian borrowed books from Molly to try and better himself, and how he really liked Shakespeare and the Russian authors, but couldn't relate to the books of Jane Austen. He's a memorable and very likable character. This whole book is quite entertaining and readable....and definitely better than The Romance of the Forest.
Other classic westerns I've read and enjoyed:
And any book by Louis L'Amour is always fun!