Title: The Last of the Mohicans
Author: James Fenimore Cooper
Genre: American Classic
Rating: 3 of 5
This was the monthly read over at the Dewey Decimators book club, which gave me a push to finally read this book that has been lingering on my mental “I should really read that…” list. I’m glad I read it because of its place as one of the classic adventure stories of the US, but it didn’t really grab me, and I found some parts pretty cringe-y. To be fair, some of my “meh” reception may be due to massive stress at my job right now (the reason I haven’t posted here for a while) and just personal ambivalence toward almost any “manly American frontiersman” story line.
The book works when taken as a fairly typical light adventure classic from the 1800’s, featuring wordiness, a peril/action-driven plot, and the need to frequently overlook the racial prejudices of the characters (and possibly the author). The plot moves along from one damsels/heroes/soldiers in distress situation to another with quite a few action set pieces. Our heroes are manly, stoic, and competent in a fight. One of our heroines is dark-haired and firmly faces the perils of life, while shielding the other who is a blonde, innocent rag doll. Stylistically it reminded me a lot of something like Scott’s Ivanhoe or Stevenson’s The Black Arrow ( though as a matter of personal taste I much prefer those two books because of their Medieval European setting).
This is most definitely not a “politically correct” book. Our primary white hero, who never ceases to remind us that there’s “no cross [racial/ethnic mixing] in my blood,” navigates his own self-sufficient life between the noble wood-wise savagery of the dwindling Indians and the enlightened but naive and lacking-in-survival-skills white settlements. There’s a lot of stereotyping going on, but I think the hero/author does treat some of the Indians (as long as they aren’t from the Iroquois confederacy) with more sympathy and respect than the average author of his time. Your enjoyment of the book will be directly impacted by how much you are willing to overlook as “even if I don’t like it, that is how people thought/spoke/acted back then.”
Overall: not my favorite, but your mileage may vary depending on personal taste and mental state.