‘Shane’ by Jack Schaefer

My Review (5 stars out of 5)

A stranger known only as Shane rides into the lives of the Starrett family – homesteaders struggling to keep their small farm from being taken over by rancher Fletcher. Told from the point of view of the Starrett’s son, we see how Shane’s influence changes the lives of the family and the local community.

I have a memory of reading this at school, but my recollections are all of the movie version (starring Alan Ladd), which was somewhat different to the book. Considering it was published in 1949, there’s a quality to Schaefer’s writing that isn’t often seen in books from this period. The writing style is deceptively uncomplicated, belying the skill of the author as he makes even the simplest of scenes come alive and positively sizzle on the page. Most remarkable is the way he subtly develops the relationships between the Starretts and Shane, giving a feeling of heightened emotion that you wouldn’t expect from a cowboy story. The dynamics between Shane and the boy, too, and the lad’s gradual understanding of the motives driving the stranger, had me on the verge of tears several times, and by the time I reached the end, it felt as if I’d lived the Starrett’s lives right alongside them.

A classic western tale and a highly enjoyable read that gave me a nice warm feeling inside.

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