The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains by Owen Wister
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I read this when I was a teenager and recall liking it well enough. Having just watched High Noon and Rio Bravo , I wanted more Westerns. The Virginian is often mentioned in connection with High Noon, believe it or not, AND Gary Cooper starred in that movie also. So that impetus carried me into downloading the free Kindle version from Amazon.
What I was unprepared for is how marvelous this book is. It is, strictly speaking, a Western but it didn't feel like any Zane Gray or Louis L'Amour story I've read. There are cow-boys (love that spelling), guns, horses and the hauntingly beautiful isolation of the Wyoming range. But amidst those trappings is a wonderful character study told in surprisingly contemporary writing.
Initially told by a tenderfoot who reappears periodically, the story is held together by the Virginian's wooing of schoolteacher Molly Wood. Molly comes from Vermont, so between the two newcomers, we gradually learn the Virginian's character and life lessons which it does us all good to remember. All done in a whopping good tale. Highly recommended.