While not the first, this is certainly the most well-known of the five Leatherstocking Tales written by James Fenimore Cooper
. Having seen the movie, I thought I would give the book a try. In addition, living in the Finger Lakes area made this book that much more interesting, because I could easily visualize the landscape behind Cooper's story. I really, really liked the characters. Prior to reading the book I had no idea that Hawkeye and Natty Bumppo were the same person... and it's still a little hard for me to accept due to the movie image - somehow Daniel Day Lewis doesn't really fit that name. :) Still, the "man without a cross" kept things interesting and added a sort of swashbuckling element to the story. All the characters are well-written - Uncas and Chingachcook, Magua, Alice, Cora, Heyward, and even Munro. It did take a while to get into this book, but it was enough to make me want to read the other four.
The biggest shock for me was that the ending is almost the complete opposite to the film, in regards to life, death and relationships. Basically, they just did whatever they wanted with the film story, threw in the names of the major characters, and slapped the book's title on their creation. I still appreciate the movie as being entertaining, but the two really don't have much to do with each other.
I am looking forward to reading the other four books, especially The Pathfinder
, some of which takes place at Fort Oswego and Fort Ontario. I went to college at Oswego, and toured Fort Ontario, which is still standing (although it's been rebuilt a few times since then).