The Last of the Mohicans

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Before doing anything else, please proceed to the bottom of this post, press "play," and listen to this awesome music while you read.

The Last of the Mohicans is a story I grew up with. My dad loved the movie, and would often play the soundtrack in the evenings while I would run around with my little sister pretending we were Indians dancing around the fire. Later, when I was an angsty teenager, I would walk for hours in the woods behind our cabin, listening to the soundtrack and being angsty. (Ok, I was also a weird teenager). I will also confess and say that The Last of the Mohicans was the first (and practically only) R-rated movie I ever saw. (Although I heard that the rating was changed to PG-13? I don't know if that is actually true. And I have repented - I just ordered the movie from clean play so that I can enjoy it again without feeling guilty. Anyway...)

Because this movie was such a classic in my hunting, outdoorsy family, I couldn't wait for the day when I could read the book. When I was in elementary school (I am remembering my 3rd grade classroom, so I think it was at that time) I discovered a Great Illustrated Classics version of The Last of the Mohicans in my teacher's bookshelf. I pretty much existed on Great Illustrated Classics in elementary school. I remember when the teacher took a bunch of my accelerated reader points away when she found out I was reading the simplified version instead of the original. Anyway, reading the story absolutely inspired me. I had never read a story with so much passion, desperation for survival, or tragedy. I couldn't wait for the day when I was smart enough to read the "grown up" version.

So, (after all that introduction) I have finally read the grown up version. I had mixed feelings about it. The story is still what captivated me over ten years ago. Once I reached the end, I still was completely jarred, even though I knew what was coming. (Brief aside: The Book Thief puts this perfectly: "Of course, I'm being rude. I'm spoiling the ending [...] I don't have much interest in building mystery. Mystery bores me. It chores me. I know what happens and so do you. It's the machinations that wheel us there that aggravate, perplex, interest, and astound me" (243). Exactly. This is why I reread books. End of brief aside) Often, the book was witty, descriptive, and moving.

Occasionally, the language was thick and hard to understand. I don't think this is a reflection on James Fenimore Cooper. It is a reflection on the 199 year gap between our birthdays. Even though I waited until I was "grown up" to read this book, it was still very hard. I will confess I used Cliff Notes to help me understand a few things (in particular, which tribe was which. The book has many different appellations for each tribe, and there are also many different alliances and betrayals between the tribes. You might want to draw a map). There were some important pieces of information that were unclear to me just from reading the book. If you read this, I would recommend getting a version with footnotes.

However, with all that said, you will admire the courage and resolution of Cora. You will admire the strength and untamed beauty of Uncas. You will appreciate the wisdom and roughness of Hawkeye, fall in love with Duncan and Alice, laugh at David Gamut. You will hate Le Renard Subtil. This book is most engaging due to its full characters and the intense experience they have in the wilderness of a newborn country.

The story is 5 out of 5 stars, hands down. The book at first I was thinking of about 3.5 stars, but after I read the Cliff Notes and understood it a bit better, I wanted to elevate it to 5 stars as well. Just bear in mind that it is difficult and don't be ashamed to resort to a little extra help to understand it.

Isn't the music amazing?


  1. Hi, thanks for putting your blog link up on my forum post. I too love this story but found that once I had got into the flow of the language I found it so hard to come back to modern day English!

  2. My father used to say he made it through high school and college by doing different versions of the same book report on this book. Not sure that story is true, but perhaps it would work if the book's THAT good. Now it's higher up on my TBR list, for sure.

  3. @J.G. - I believe it! There is a lot of material there. It's a great book. I just watched the movie again for the first time since I was a little girl and it is very, very different from the book, so if you've seen the movie expect drastic differences! However, I would still recommend both - they are both great stories even though there are variations.

  4. I've got this book down for my 2011 reads. This review has prepared me!

  5. @Risa - I'm glad you're planning on reading it!


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