Christina Dudley's Reviews > Ramona

Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson
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's review
May 20, 2011

really liked it
Read from June 08 to 11, 2011

The propaganda classic of 1884. Jackson intended to stir American sympathies for the plight of Native Americans, which probably explains the flat perfection of her Indian protagonists, Ramona and her lover/husband Alessandro. The two are hounded pillar to post by greedy American settlers, with no recourse to law and no protection from church or state.

I'd give the first half of the book five stars and the second half three. What gives it five stars? (1) The setting: Old California, just after the territory has changed hands from Mexico to the U.S. Both the Moreno ranch and the Indian villages and ruined missions were fresh and alive.
(2) Senora Moreno. The wily, domineering matriarch steals every scene from her pushover son Felipe and blandly-angelic foster daughter Ramona. She's complex, and Jackson does a great job getting inside her motivations.

And the three-star second-half? Well, when the book has to depend on Ramona and Alessandro for interest, it gets a little dull. The good-hearted Tennessee Cracker family that shows up livens things up somewhat, if only because the reader must expend great effort to translate Auntie Ri's orthographical-nightmare dialect.

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