literature

Read: Half Broke Horses

Monday, January 10, 2011

I've been meaning to start a book section here at the Sea for sometime now because, just as my Classic Confections section keeps me eating new candies, I hope my Read section will encourage me to read new books. I hope this section might encourage you to pick up a book or two as well because if there is something we could all do more often, it's read the printed word. 
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Jeannette Walls' Half Broke Horses is an incredible "true life novel" about a remarkable lady. Walls takes on the voice of her maternal grandmother in this novel and brings to life a woman she hardly knew but whose larger than life personality lingered in Walls' memory and the memories of others. 

Born just after the turn of the century in a rough dugout house on a ranch in west Texas, Lily Casey began her most extraordinary life in a relatively ordinary way. By the time the novel catches up with Casey, it appears she has mastered the ranch life and, as demonstrated by her short stint at boarding school, is destined for greater things. By the age of 16 and during the first World War, Lily Casey has already fledged, leaving the ranch and making the long ride, alone and on horseback, to a teaching job 500 miles from her home. Far from certified, and with only a few months of real education under her belt, Casey finds herself out of a job when the war ends and more qualified teachers resume their positions. Return to the ranch? Not Lily Casey, instead she heads to Chicago where she finds herself the very definition of a flapper, albeit a very hardworking one. 

Lily Casey
 Hard work is something Casey does not escape throughout the novel, though I suppose that's what makes her so admirable. She is a tough woman whose life breaks the very conventional, lady like mold set by society (and her mother). I'll not chatter on about the plot anymore, for fear I'll spoil the entire novel for you, but rather explain that Lily Casey is one of those women that can put many of us modern ladies to shame. Not afraid of hard work, nor a little dirt, Casey's ingenuity leads her through many of the most difficult events in American history. From riding even the most difficult of horses, to driving cars and flying planes, Lily Casey's life presents an interesting snapshot of the 20th century in the American west. 

Why read Half Broke Horses?
Well, I suppose like any biography, for a good story about an interesting person. You've, I'm sure, read about many self-made men or perhaps famous women that pulled themselves up by the boot straps but reading about an ordinary self-made lady is far more fascinating. I'm sure at some point you'll ask yourself, like I did, "if I was in this position, could I do this?." Also, I guarantee you'll think differently about modern conveniences after reading this novel and you'll perhaps ask yourself what exactly you "need" in your life and what you can live without. What's most interesting for me is that the novel shattered many of my preconceived notions about life in the early-mid 20th century, turns out history is best learned from those that experienced it rather than textbooks (shocker, eh?). 
This novel is a very quick read. It's well written but straight forward, the exact sort of novel you'd expect, after you get to know her, a lady like Casey to write. 

I am excited to read Walls' novel, The Glass Castle, which is about the life of Lily Casey's daughter- the author's mother. (It should be noted that I am reading these books out of order, however, I prefer to read things in historical chronological order rather than in order by publication).


And, lastly, in honor of my efforts to read more and to encourage others to do the same, I'd like to make mention of a lovey contest being held by the enchanting Miss Emmi at her blog, They'd Have Called Me "The Bar Nothing." Now until the 26th of this month, Miss Emmi is accepting entries to win two classic works: The Big Sleep and Breakfast at Tiffany's. Stop over to enter her contest or just to peruse her fabulous blog.

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