“He had geared himself for criminals, a gang of lawbreakers, burglars who needed punishing. What he found instead was a pageant, a pageant of action so breathtaking that, like a kid at his first big parade, the lieutenant was powerless to do anything but stand there and watch it go by.”
Lt. John Dunbar voyages west to take up a post at the western frontier, his life’s ambition. Finding the fort deserted and himself the only white man within a week’s travel, he sets about restoring the fort to appropriate standards and surveying the nearby lands. When he encounters the local Indian tribe, his diplomatic attempts are a little more open-minded than most soldiers of his time, and he slowly drawn into the Indian camp…
The overall arc, the idea, is a strong and beautiful one, and Blake went out on a limb to write a book which is overwhelming positive about the Native American tribe (assumed to be Sioux), particularly in comparison to the US Army. The novel is gentle; the writing is not complex or particularly literary. The reader is lulled into the huge expanse of the plains, Dunbar’s solitude at Ford Sedgewick, and equally the excitement of the buffalo hunt, the repeated attempts to steal Dunbar’s beloved horse and the conflict with the Pawnee grips the reader. I found the book easy to keep reading but also quite easy to put down and pick up again.
Faults? Lt. Dunbar is too good a man. It’s too easy for him to move into the Comanche world – Kicking Bird comments on it very directly (I can’t find the quote now). He never seemed to do anything selfish, foolish, or wrong. I felt this novel didn’t really know what it was, and that feeling lingered throughout. Was it an Army v Indians frontier adventure? A romance (there was more than enough gentle romantic language for it to qualify)? A social commentary?
The film made from this book (which originally started life as a speculative screenplay, which may explain the fairly simple style of writing) won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture (first Western film to win since 1931), Best Director and Best Sound. Sounds like I need to add that to my LoveFilm request list!Additional information: Copy from Bookmooch. Publisher: Anchor Books, 184 pages (paperback) Order Dances with Wolves from Amazon* * this is an affiliate link – I will be paid a small percentage of your purchase price if you use this link, which goes towards give-aways and site hosting