180. The Great Karoo

The Great Karoo by Fred Stenson

Pages: 484
Finished: Nov. 23, 2008
First Published: Sept. 2008
Genre: historical fiction
Rating: 3/5
Reason for Reading: Received a Review Copy from Random House Canada.

First sentence:

The Concorde stagecoach had been a tarry, shining black when they left the train station in Calgary.

Comments: This is a tale of the Boer War and the Canadians who fought in it. The story focuses on the First Canadian Mounted Rifles and also briefly concerns the Royal Dragoons and the Lord Strathcona Horse (of which I was an army wife many years ago). These are all Canadian Mounted troops. While the book is about the war it mainly focuses on Frank Adams, an Albertan ranch hand, and the friends he goes to war with and the people he meets on the front line. The main focus is on the people and relationships and their reactions to the events around them but there is also a lot of background on the war and military politics.

This is a tough book for me to review as it really didn't do it for me, whatever "it" may be. A lot of characters are introduced right away; some are major characters, other minor and yet others who fleet in and out of the book. Typically I enjoy a large cast of characters in my books but I found it hard to identify with anyone and with two characters called Frank and Fred I frequently got mixed up and had to keep looking at the jacket flap to see which one was the main character. (Frank). The middle part of the book focuses on the military aspects of the war, the battles, the politics and I found that when characters starting dying (this is a war after all) it really didn't affect me as I'd never developed a relationship with them at this point and also up to this point I found the book a slow read. Though I never lost interest enough to put it down.

The last third of the book is when things seem to pick up. The characters are familiar enough to have some meaning to the reader and I found the story more interesting from this point on and found the ending satisfying. In summary, I found the book contained too much describing and telling rather than characterization and personally I'm all about the characters when it comes to books I love. The writing is good and while I wasn't thrilled with it; it did manage to keep me reading for close to 500 pages. It simply just didn't do "it" for me, for whatever reason. Your mileage may vary.


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