DOC, BY MARY DORIA RUSSELL
For some unknown reason, one of my friends is going through a Western phase. It's a bit baffling to the rest of us, since it's so far removed from our reality, but we all love her dearly, so I decided to be supportive and read this book, which is one of her most recent favorites.
Synopsis: The book tells the story of the early years of Doc Holliday's life (who, I understand, is one of the Western legends), before the gunfight at OK Corral (which, I understand, is another one of the Western legends).
Overall enjoyment: Surprisingly good. Obviously, I didn't expect to like it; I have no interest in the subject. Also, most of the time, whenever she referred to things she took for granted her readers would know, I had no idea what she was talking about. Still, it held my interest from start to finish, which is more than can be said from many books whose subjects would interest me.
Plot: It drags a bit, especially in the beginning, but I suppose that's to be expected; the book is not about one specific happening, but more about Doc's life and that of his friends, the Earps. In my opinion, she could have included a chapter detailing what, exactly, happened at OK Corral... I honestly have no idea what that's about (I only know that that's what made Doc and the Earps famous), and I'm not so interested in it that I would research it. She just takes for granted that her readers would know it. But, then again, they probably would.
Characters: She does a very good job at making her characters seem like real people. Which, in fact, they were; but I suppose they must have been carefully surrounded by misinformation and exaggerated tales to the point where they wouldn't be recognizable. In here, they have their own motivations, quirks, flaws and contradictions in personality, and that makes them quite interesting characters.
World/setting: Dodge city in the 1800s. She shies away from most clichés (the ones so famous even I know about) and gives what I imagine must be a truthful portrait of the city. Without being scholarly, she makes it very clear how much the economy of the city and the whole region depended on prostitution, gambling and liquor, and how the difficulties in maintaining order contributed to a general atmosphere of violence.
Writing style: Very pleasant to read. Again, sometimes she talks about things I didn't (and don't) know, but most of the time the book was clear and easy to follow.
Representation: Once again surprising me, she included many POC as characters. None of them are central to the story, but that would probably be taking too much liberty with what is at least supposed to be a true story. Also, taking in account that this is about Doc Holliday and the Earps, in a time and place where women were either hookers or wives (or both), I was astonished at the amount of important female characters in this book, and how well-written they were.
Political correctness: She doesn't try to make her characters seem better than they probably were. They are very racist, sexist and arrogant, very much in tune with the time they lived on. But she doesn't condescend to their views; in no point you have the impression she agrees with what her characters were thinking or saying.
Up next: The Pearl That Broke Its Shell, by Nadia Hashimi