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10 thoughts on “The Unforgiven

  1. says:

    The Unforgiven is a very internse and powerful book set in the rugged Texas panhandle circa 1874 Central to the plot is the Zachary family mother Tilda worn down mentally , oldest brother Ben and surrogate father 24 years of age the father, Zach, had drowned four years before in a river cattle crossing , brother Cash 21 years , sister Rachael 17 years and Andy 16 years The family are ranchers striving to eke out a living Rachel is not the biological child of Zach and Tilda, but was found on the plains as a baby Her parentage is questionable, whether white, Indian or of mixed race is unknown Rachel is not aware of this and is very much an integral sibling in the family The narrative focuses on Rachel, race relations whites and the maurading Kiowas , cattle ranching on the Texas plains in the late 1800s, and I was particularly impressed with the writing style of Alan LeMay He is a powerful, intense writer, adept at infusing in the dialogue the Western vernacular of this era The cowboy slang, emotive expressions, and compelling metaphors, coupled with the lack of proper grammar extant in the southwest at this time and place yet sometimes even expressive than the King s English , made the narrative beautifully eloquent The action was harsh and gritty yet the author never stooped to exploitation or sensationalism I just finished LeMay s The Searchers and was so impressed I decided to read of his works I was not disappointed with The Unforgiven I have read many of L Amour s Westerns and considered him the consummate spinner or Western yarns After reading The Searchers and The Unforgiven , I have come to view L Amour as LeMay lite.

  2. says:

    There is a secret within the Zachary family, their only daughter, Rachael, may be of Kiowa blood With neighbors ready to tell the tale and accusing the Zachary s of being Indian Lovers and War chiefs within the Kiowa nation ready to take back what is theirs, Rachael and her family must face the past and survive the future.I can see why this was made into a movie, it s a fantastic story and I rate it among the best I have ever read.

  3. says:

    Going into this novel, I wasn t sure what to expect I m familiar with the movie version of The Searchers, starring John Wayne, but I had not read the novel Neither had I read this book, nor seen its movie incarnation Awhile back, I came across it on and added it to my Watchlist to get to sometime in the future Then good ole , thought enough to recommend the book to me, which is available for borrowing, free for Prime users So, I thought I d tackle the book first Given the extremely short summary here, I actually wasn t sure what the novel was actually about So, from the back cover of the Kindle edition I read The Texas Panhandle was a harsh and unforgiving place, but the Zachary family managed to get by Until their world was upended by an old enemy who started a vicious rumor about the true identity of beautiful seventeen year old Rachel Zachary Now their neighbors want her dead, and a band of Kiowa warriors are out to claim her for their own There s only one man who will stand up for her But in protecting Rachel, he might just be signing his own death warrant. While I wasn t blown away, and there are a few flaws in the novel, I still enjoyed this tale at least as much as I had anticipated LeMay has a delicious cadence in his narration The words and rhythms are beautiful at times and gentle, yet insistent They are neither overly poetic nor gratingly starchy Under the ground and upon it and in the air, every winter deadened thing awoke, turned young and eager and human hearts rose singing in answer. However, some of the language does leave a lot to be desired Namely the chosen derogatory term, so casually bandied about, makes it hard to concentrate while reading, or to avoid making a sour face Red nigger is distasteful at best and horrific at least There s so much weight with those two words joined together that two entire races of people are slathered in the ugliness of it each and every time There are, of course, novels where the racist terms within are there because the characters speak that way, or because of the times in which the novel is set, but the problem I have with the usage of such terms in this book is that they seem wholly out of place Throughout the book, there is hardly a curse word said, and aside from the racist remarks there s a quiet solemnity to the novel Calm and capable It s been said that the novel s purpose and therefore the movie s, by extension is to tackle racism and its effects I cannot find that in this book Yes, there is the opportunity to do so, but either the author barely scratched the surface, or the undertones are so quiet that you could do nothing but wonder what is actually being said about racism Thus, this derogatory term when used, feels like its place is to shock and startle, which breaks up the momentum of the book altogether The story warrants neither such attempts at shock, nor does it require it The shock value is so extremely low here that I d find it hard to recommend the book solely based on that truth.The ending is rather stunted in actuality, and seems like an entire chapter was lopped off the end In fact, to fully explore seemingly deep rooted, racist beliefs, this is the part of the novel to do so As Rachel learns to fully explore her own truths, contrasted with what she had previously believed to be true, our grasp on her realness as a character loosens The novel would ve gained so much awareness had LeMay delved farther into this character alone She and Ben both have patchy and spotty character arcs, and they are truly the only two who have them to begin with The highlight of the book is actually the mother, Matthilda Zachary, and Georgia Rawlins I think if a little effort on LeMay s part had been applied to these two, and explored in depth, the attempts at tackling racist beliefs of Native Americans and those of mixed race heritage would have proven successful and in a greater and brighter light.But, I do recognize some of that is a complex interpretation of trying to apply a 21st century view on a novel written in the mid 20th century which is set at the very beginning of the last quarter of the 19th century post Civil War, to further underscore the point So, I shall give it some slack Despite my lengthy points on its flaws, as I see them, the novel is actually well written with some beautiful passages about life and the wild landscape of the Texas Panhandle in the early 1870s.

  4. says:

    I thought the writing was very good, very authentic The author has no problem bumping off major characters and in the end handles Rachael s origins in a very interesting way I don t know if the author was reflecting the bigotry of 1957 or 1874 but it was a bit uncomfortable with the Kiowa being called non human, half human or red niggers an expression I had never heard before Not your typical western and even better than LeMay s The Searchers

  5. says:

    Review to follow.

  6. says:

    Alan LeMay, even if he had written nothing else, would be long remembered as a very fine writer of western novels because of his two best The Searchers and The Unforgiven The Searchers, of course, was made into a much loved John Wayne movie, and in 1960 The Unforgiven was made into a film starring Burt Lancaster and Audrey Hepburn Both the book and film versions of The Unforgiven are somewhat overshadowed by those of The Searchers, but, in a way, their stories are almost mirror images of each other.In The Searchers, a white child has been stolen by Indians and her family is determined to rescue the young woman from the savages In The Unforgiven, a Kiowa child has been stolen by a white family, and when the Indians learn the origin of the young woman, they demand her return to the tribe Both books focus heavily on the racial prejudice that was so commonly inflicted upon American Indians by the very people determined to steal their homelands from them The resulting conflict was both brutal and bloody, with atrocities perpetrated by both sides What makes LeMay s writing special, is that he gives equal weight to both points of view The Zachary family has come to Texas for a new beginning and they are determined to hang onto their land and the way of life they have carved out for themselves Now, however, because of the drowning of the family patriarch on a recent cattle drive, they must look to Ben, the eldest of three brothers and one sister, for the leadership their father used to provide Ben proves himself to be a competent enough ranch manager, but when an old family nemesis shows up and begins spreading rumors about the Zachary daughter, things take an ugly turn.Soon, the leaders of a group of Kiowa warriors that raids this part of the Texas territory with the coming of each full moon begins scouting the ranch in order to get a closer look at the girl they suspect might be a baby lost to the tribe years earlier And if the Kiowa decide that the young woman belongs to them, the Zacharys know that they will fight to the death to bring her home to the tribe.Most westerns written in the 1950s were closer to the pulp westerns of the late 1800s than to serious western fiction Alan LeMay s work is one exception to the rule LeMay s The Unforgiven can, in fact, be called a literary novel, and he spends as much time here developing his Kiowa characters as he does his main white characters By looking at the conflict through two very different sets of eyes, what the author describes at the novel s climax feels both inevitable and tragic In the real world of post Civil War Texas, it was unlikely to end any other way.

  7. says:

    I had never heard of this author before, but I recognized the title from the old 1960 s movie staring Burt Lancaster The first part of the book read a bit like Little House on the Prairie but for adults Lot s of small incidents that lead up to the big showdown at the end The story is basically a tale of betrayal and prejudice against a frontier family who s adopted daughter is suspected of being stolen from the local Kiowa tribe Neither the Kiowa s, nor their neighbors appreciate that It s interesting that this is the opposite of LeMay s other famous book The Searchers , in which an Indian girl is suspected of being an abducted white girl This was also made into a famous movie, this time staring staring John Wayne.Took a bit of getting into, but got progressively interesting from the half way point on I enjoyed it enough to try and track down a copy of The Searchers.

  8. says:

    First rate realistic traditional Western set in 1874 along the Texas Panhandle Full fledged characters I also liked the vivid details given about the cattle drives, life in a soddy house not for me , and violent clashes with the Kiowas Indians The novel s main strife pivots on the true identity of the 17 year old Rachel Zachary who may or may not be of Kiowa blood A rousing stand off occurs at the climatic ending A movie of the book was made starring Burt Lancaster and Audrey Hepburn, though I ve never watched it.

  9. says:

    An emotionally challenging book Very well written Leaving all the heartache as implication rather than spelling it all out Excellent accurate period data Nicely done I will probably seek out The Searchers.

  10. says:

    As a fan of Westerns movies and books , I d looked forward to this story from Alan LeMay He does a good job creating the sense of place Texas, mid 1870 s and the harsh realities of cattle ranching during that time The plot follows the Zachary family, whose patriarch died some years earlier while driving a herd across a dangerous river at twilight His sons have mostly carried on the goals set by the elder Zachary, with the eldest, Ben, taking on the paternal role as best he can His younger brothers, Cassius and Andy tend to the daily business of rounding up and herding cattle, seeing to fencing, etc., while the mother Matilda and younger sister Rachel look after the home and food prep The home, it should be said, is really of a reinforced dugout with a connected root cellar, and has been constructed with numerous small openings that are plugged when not in use through which occupants can see and shoot would be marauding Kiowa Indians.And it is with the Kiowa that much of the book deals Seems that Rachel, unbeknownst to her for most of her 17 years, is not a biological child of the Zachary family but, rather, likely of Kiowa decent Picked up on the trail as an abandoned infant and raised as one of their own, Rachel is deeply rooted in this family, and has special affection for Ben Once she discovers the truth, however, she begins a tortured journey of introspection, trying to calculate just what her role in the family is There is a strong suggestion that is never articulated fully, that freed from the stigma of a familial connection, she and Ben might explore their mutual attraction for one another LeMay lets this dangle unanswered, however.The prejudice against the Kiowa is central to the story, and if you are offended by the N word here used with the prefix red to indicate Indians , then this book might not be for you LeMay certainly wanted the reader to feel the hatred and senseless bigotry held by so many white settlers against the Native Americans He also wanted to convey the social damage done by rumor mongering, stating claims whether or not founded against an individual of being an Indian or harboring sympathies for them Not too different from today On the whole, this is a well written book, but I found the writing style a bit stodgy at times, and the pacing rather slow until about 3 4 of the way through the book Once all hell breaks loose as you knew it would between the Kiowas and the Zachary family, the story becomes very engaging and enjoyable The ending is a bit of a disappointment, however, and thus a three star rating.