The Texicans Hardcover – 1 Oct 2006
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Every character is so wonderfully believable and I loved how they developed during the story. Katrin, so weepy and wet at the beginning, becomes a truly strong frontierswoman able to turn her hand and brain to anything, without her pre-occupied husband Joseph really noticing until the end. I feel she is the defining personality of this story and thought it so clever that the author leaves Joseph until the very end to realise how vital she is in his life and how - in his own selfish way - finds that he probably loves her and cannnot really do without her quiet skills.
I found one intriguing point that none of the Magazine Reviews I saw, mentioned - the absolute lack of this new and awful political correctness that abounds in America. Vida defied current convention in showing the historical truth, that Indians were generally cruel stone-age barbarians and pretty much target practice for the settlers and that not all Texas Rangers were warm and wonderful human beings committed to law and order and acting in such a way Hollywood could always cast them as the goodies. As I read through the truly true feel of this story, I wondered at how long before Vida is facing the wrath of those history revisers who want everything in the past to be beautiful and clear and easy to the eye and ear and Indians to be noble to a man and Texas Rangers all to be like John Wayne and Zachary Scott.
As an Englishman reading an American author I find this most refreshing and I learned a great deal of the true history of Texas and the early United States from this brilliant book.
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I give this book a very high recommendation. The Texicans is unusual in its sympathetic treatment of minorities, and in its thorough treatment of even minor Comanche Indian characters. If there's a character in this novel, they are anything but a "stock" character. One has to keep reading to see whether or not the settlers, which include Negro slaves, an Alsatian immigrant, a Jewish schoolteacher/trapper, and a Mexican woman, make it out of their predicaments.
Early on, Ms. Vida shows some flashes of dry humor, which makes me think I would enjoy her company. These flashes disappear, however, as the story becomes darker and more complicated. The author is unsparing in her portrayal of both Comanche and Karankawa Indians' depredations in early Texas, and her descriptions are not for the faint of heart. The harsh treatment of runaway slaves is not glossed over, either.
I honestly believe that Ms. Vida has read much of Cormac McCarthy, particularly his works like Blood Meridian. I have no familiarity, either, with McCarthy, but I know that his depiction of the brutality and cruelty of life on the frontier in 1840's Texas probably influenced other writers such as Vida. This is heavy stuff she's taken on.
The Texicans also excels in its absolutely pitch-perfect examination of male/female relationships, particularly of marriage. The author shows us unrequited love, interdependence, acceptance, persistence, and commitment, as men and women become true partners in situations that are often lonely, difficult, and sorrowful. Because these characters live anything but a life of ease, we are challenged to understand more about daily life on the frontier, and what sacrifices would be demanded of these brave souls.
Near the end of the book, events happen that are unbearably poignant. These are difficult to read about, and will leave the reader with powerful images.
I found the ending to be done pretty well. Certainly, it's better than a lot of endings I see today. The author may be showing us that it took years for citizens in frontier Texas to feel like the Americans they came to be. The feeling of finally being settled, and realizing one's true talents, with no need to look back in regret at one's mistakes, is the mark of maturity in the characters. While, at times, the characters have understandable reasons to feel depressed, in the end, they realize that life is about as good as it gets.
This is an epic drama of settlers struggling to settle in Texas during the years 1840 to 1854. What makes this book stand out from the rest is the characters. Rather than the usual group of white European settlers Vida has cast her tale with peoples who make an unusual yet enthralling story. Each having their own story, until they come together as a group of settlers, are a Polish Jew, an Alsace German, a runaway slave, a paid for slave family, a Mexican woman who may be a witch and her half white daughter. This group of people join and grow together in an emotionally strong bond and face the brutality of the Comanches, Rangers, weather and racism.
I was truly hooked with this book from the first chapter. Each character is introduced separately before becoming part of the group and while the story is told in the third person we are shown the story from various character's perceptions along the way. This is one of the most amazing group of settlers I have read about and I appreciate the insight into the story of the peoples often overlooked in telling of the settling of Texas. Character was everything for me in this book. I felt as if I knew them and certain events were emotionally disturbing because of that.
The plot itself is tremendous. What starts out as one man's journey, and a selfish man at that, turns into an almost Christian allegory of the downtrodden following the Jew believing he will save them and lead them home. He does ... partially, but he is *not* the Saviour. Instead it becomes a voyage of many souls and it is the weak and downtrodden that bring the selfishness out of the man, though unbeknownst to him, and very slowly, by the end of the book, he has been changed, just enough, by the events of his journey and by the people who love him, those whom he met along that journey. I could not put this book down! I even read at the table! Ultimately, a fierce new version of the Western with a bittersweet ending.