Sunday, January 10, 2016

Shane Read-Along: Chapter 1

Here we are!  Embarking on a new read-along adventure.  If you haven't done one of these with me before, the way I run a read-along is to post about each chapter in turn, usually every 2 or 3 days.  You can post your own thoughts in the comments here, discussing the book with me and each other.  If you also want to post things on your own blog as we go, you're most welcome to, but it's not required.

The thing that struck me the most in this first chapter is what a mass of contradictions Shane is.  Young Bob's first impression of the faraway stranger is that "there seemed nothing remarkable about him" (p. 1), but a pair of cowhands stop and stare at him, signalling he is remarkable after all.  Next, Bob thinks Shane would look frail next to Bob's father, but he also recognizes signs of endurance in Shane.  And so on -- Shane is easy and yet tense, dangerous and yet safe.  An intriguing man!  That little detail about putting a flower in his hatband is most uncommon as well.  So genteel, yet he's also cold and terrifying when he's on the defensive.  I'm enchanted already.

Bob's mother, Marian, also seems unusual, doesn't she?  Bob calls her "an unpredictable woman" (p. 6).  He doesn't seem to mean that in a bad way, but more of a "this keeps life interesting" way, don't you think?

Of course, our central conflict gets introduced here as well:  Luke Fletcher's big, traditional ranch across the river as opposed to the smaller, more modern spreads like the Starrett place.

The narration of this book always fascinates me.  It's told by a grown man remembering what he saw, experienced, thought, and felt as a young boy.  I like that it's not condescending about the way little boys behave, but yet doesn't try to make him seem like he understood all grown-up things either.  Strikes a nice balance, I feel. 

Possible Discussion Questions:

Have you read this before, or seen the 1953 movie version?

What do you think of Shane himself so far?  And the other characters -- what can you tell about them from just this first chapter?

How about the narration -- do you like it, or do you wish the author had made a different storytelling choice?

Any guesses as to what's in that saddle-roll that makes Shane take it from Bob and put it out of reach?  (I actually don't remember right now -- it's been like ten years since I last read this.  I started it this past summer and then had to put it aside.)


  1. I wanted to join in this readalong, but I couldn't find a copy of Shane at the library, thrift store, or regular bookstore. :( I'll keep looking, though!

    1. This'll take us until the end of February to finish, I think, so you've got a bit of time to find a copy and catch up!

    2. I bought my most recent copy from Amazon, I think from "new or used" category, and I think it arrived within 5 days.

  2. I was thinking of reading along too, but I couldn't find a copy. My library is getting worse and worse. And if I place an ILL, it would take 2-6 months to come. So sadly, I'll just have to be satisfied with reading the posts. In any case, I hope that you have a wonderful read-along!

    1. Cleopatra, what a bummer! I don't know how you feel about reading books online or with an e-reader, but it's available as a Nook book from Barnes and Noble's website, and also here online from something called Scribd -- they offer a free 14-day trial.

  3. I've seen the movie, but years ago.I had read the book first, and was pleased the movie is so faithful to the book. Every few years I go back to it. When I was searching Amazon for the book,I came across something unexpected. There was a two season TV series.Joe was dead, Shane had come back to the Starret ranch to court Marian - and he was played by David Carradine. Nope, sorry. Shane is not a tall lanky mumble-mouth.
    My favorite line is Joe introducing his son as "Robert MacPherson Starret. Too much a name for a boy. I make it Bob." And then Shane's remark that he had seen Bob watching him approach: "I like that. A man who watches what's going on around him will make his mark." I think Bob has his first hero-crush from that moment on

    1. Kelda, I've seen the movie 3 or 4 times, but not in at least 5 years, so I'm planning to revisit it this month and write up a review. I saw it first, then read the book, and was also pleased by how similar they are.

      But the TV show? No thanks. Like you, I've read about it, and that's enough.

      Definitely some hero-worship going on! I love how it affects both Bob and Shane as the story progresses :-)

    2. Yes, the relationship between Shane and Bob grows so close. I had to smile when Shane first calls him "Bob Bobby." As young as he is, Bob recognizes it as an endearment,not a put down. Shane has a unique relationship with each Starret family member. With Bob,I wonder whether Shane lost a child of his own. Of course, the only thing we can do is wonder- Shaefer weaves a tight web of mystery right through the last page.

    3. Kelda, so true! All three Starretts have their own special relationship with Shane. It's beautiful.

      And that's one reason I won't touch the TV show -- I want that mystery preserved. And I want to be free to imagine my own backstory for him if I so choose.

  4. I've seen the movie and so far, the first two chapters are really good. So far, it seems like the movie did the book justice.

    It is really interesting how Shane seems to have so many contradictions. I wonder what the contradictions reveal about Shane.

    1. Ekaterina, that's a great way to put it! The movie did the book justice.

      My personal take on Shane is that he's an intensely private man who keeps his true self hidden from view and presents specific things to other people. Only those who look closely, or those he opens up to, can glimpse the truth behind the facade, as it were.

    2. I can see Shane as being that kind of man who is very private. Since he is so private, I as the reader, am very interested and curious to learn more about who he is.

      One thing I forgot to mention. I also like Bob. In the movie he's really cute, and he brings a fresh and childish aspect to the book, which I like.

    3. Do you think Shane will have an influence on Bob's adult personality?

      I really like Bob, too. He is affectionate, innocent, curious. :^) He's reasonably obedient for his age.(Many years ago I had a home schooler go off on the Wilder books & TV show because the parents didn't discipline kids, & the kids were undisciplined, dishonest, & a terrible influence on modern children.As a parent, I'd OK Shane as young as 5th grade. That group devoured Harry Potter on its own -certainly ready to take on a slim novella with well developed characters .And I think that age group might really enjoy seeing a narrator their own age.)

    4. I do think that Shane will have an influence on Bob's adult personality. Bob looks up to Shane as an adult and in a way is inspired and in awe of Shane. I think that we, as humans, unconsciously act based on people we admire, which is why I think Bob would be influenced by Shane.

      When you say the Wilder books, do you mean the Little House on the Prairie books?

    5. Kelda and Ekaterina, I was wondering that about the Wilder books myself -- really wondering how someone could read them and think the parents don't discipline the kids! My goodness, when Laura got whipped for slapping Mary because Mary was bragging about how blonde hair is prettier than brown? I think the Ingalls parents were quite strict disciplinarians -- and they needed to be. I read this great post at A Great Book Study about how much obedience was prized because it could mean the difference between a child -- and a whole family -- living and dying out in the untamed world.

      However, the TV show Little House on the Prairie was quite different, of course. A product of the time it was created and shown in, really.

  5. Confession: I pulled Shane out this morning, intending to read the first six chapters 'cause that's how far you've gotten in the read-along so far. Soooo...I got to chapter six, totally forget about my plan to stop, and read the whole thing in one sitting.


    I LOVE IT SO MUCH NOW. I have to admit that I was a little wary at first, for whatever reason (probably because I knew nothing of the plot, and I tend to be leery of books when I don't know anything about the story) but it blew me away. *siiiiigh* So amazing.

    Also, feelsy. Why didn't you warn me about the ending??? (Although I have to say that my seasoned reader's brain half-suspected that Certain Events would transpire - don't want to give spoilers for other people.) Basically, I loved all the characters and the plot and everything else. Thank you so, so much for sending me a copy! :)

    I'll be working my way through the other posts ASAP, and I might even do an instant re-read so I can go through the story at a slower pace, along with the read-along. :)


    1. Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww! Eva, you're making me feel all warm and fuzzy. I love that you just read the whole thing in one sitting. I've had to stop myself at the end of each chapter and write my blog post up right away so I didn't get tempted to do the same.

      And yes, it's feelsy. Sorry if you weren't expecting that. It's beautiful and sad, but also feels right and necessary and yeah... so good.

      I'll look forward to reading your comments on previous posts when you're not quite so busy and have time for them!

  6. I'm back and ready to comment on all these posts. :) Yay!

    I haven't seen the movie - would you recommend it? The trailer didn't really impress me (I thought most of the casting looked 'off') but I'm willing to give it a chance if you think it's worth my while. :)

    Right from the first mention of the saddle-roll, I knew what'd be in it.

    I've grown fond of the 'older narrator looking back on events' POV, thanks to To Kill A Mockingbird, so I really enjoyed the tone/voice of this book.

    On to the next chapter!

    1. Yay for Eva!

      I do really like the movie -- I plan to review it for the Period Drama Challenge before this read-along is over, and then a copy of it will be one of the giveaway prizes when this read-along ends. I happen to like both Alan Ladd and Van Heflin, though, so that does make a difference. It's quite faithful to the book.

      Yeah, books like this and TKAM manage that narration nicely, without getting smarmy or cutesy.

  7. Thank goodness for used bookstores! I finally got my hands on a copy of Shane and with store credit no less from trade-ins I'd done before. What lovely timing.

    Anyway, this is the first time I've tried reading the novel. I've seen the film maybe twice, but it was many years ago and the impression I remember of it is that I didn't like it. It was too windswept and depressing for some reason. I may watch it again someday, though, just to be sure. I was probably in my early twenties the last time I watched it, many years ago.

    As for Shane himself, he reminds me a little bit of Chris in The Magnificent Seven, a man with an obvious past, but not necessarily an evil man. Just . . . dangerous, as Joe and Marian concede about Shane. It's hard to know whether I like him or not because I can't tell what he's really like. Joe has a very welcoming spirit, as does Marian, and it seems that Bob was in need of a hero figure, someone other than his father, but I'm not sure that Shane is actually the best role model, based off what I vaguely remember about the movie.

    The narration is different simply because it's from a child's perspective. Sort of like To Kill a Mockingbird was from Scout's perspective. So I like it, but then I usually love child narrator's. Bob is wistful, as some children tend to be, both admiring and a little scared of Shane at this point. And I totally get why that would be. Shane must give off these vibes and Bob can't quit capture the why of the vibe, only that it exists.

    One character I do really like is Marian, at least right now. She seems to possess a great deal of pluck, even though being a homesteader probably isn't her first choice. Bad days happen, crops fail, and she presses on, making the best meal she can make and encouraging her husband and son. But I am curious to see what makes her "unpredictable" as Bob calls her.

    I don't read a lot of westerns other than Stephen Bly so I haven't decided what I think of the novel yet. But I do like the narration and it'll be interesting to see how the story pans out with the Fletcher ranch vs. the homesteaders.

    1. Huzzah!!! I am too fond of our used book store -- it's actually a chain, called 2nd and Charles, and I have to limit myself as to how often I go there, or we'd be in the poor house.

      The movie is quiet and slow-simmering, like the first half of the book, and could be a little bleak, I suppose, depending on how you view the west, homesteading, etc. My brother doesn't like westerns very much because he doesn't like dirt, and he thinks he would be miserable in such a world.

      Shane does have a lot in common with Chris from Mag7! A lot of the same aura, though Chris feels a little colder yet to me. So maybe he's a bit of a mix of Chris and Vin. Dangerous, but not actually bad.

      Marian is awesome. I love how perceptive she is.

      I've never read anything by Stephen Bly -- any recommendations?

    2. For Stephen Bly, I'd recommend starting with his Stuart Brannon series, 1st book Hard Winter at Broken Arrow Crossing and go on from there. He wrote over 100 westerns before cancer beat him, and I loved at least 95% of them. But my first encounter with his work was Brannon and so that series is still my favorite.


What do you think?

Comments on old posts are always welcome!

(Rudeness and vulgar language will not be tolerated.)