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The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains

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3.88  ·  Rating details ·  6,584 Ratings  ·  672 Reviews
In the untamed West, pioneers came to test their fortunes -- and their wills. The Wyoming territory was a harsh, unforgiving land, with its own unwritten code of honor by which men lived and died. Into this rough landscape rides the Virginian, a solitary man whose unbending will is his only guide through life. The Virginian's unwavering beliefs in right and wrong are soon ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published September 3rd 2002 by Scribner Book Company (first published 1902)
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Henry Avila
Nov 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel , The Virginian, the first real western book published, in 1902, began the genre , as a popular art form in America, the wild cowboy and the schoolmarm, cattle rustling, the lynchings, Indian attacks, an explosive card game, the deadly shoot out between the good guy, and the villain in the streets of a little, isolated, dusty town in the lawless, mostly empty , Wyoming territory of the 1880's, when cattle was king and vast cowherds roamed free on government lands, without any fences . ...more
J.G. Keely
I cannot believe that I sat in American Lit reading Hawthorne when I could have been reading this. If you have never heard of this book, then I am not sure why; just as I am not sure why I had never heard of it. It is surely Romantic, and sometimes Heroic, but there is a depth of emotion, wit, and thought in this work which made me question how American it could be.

Of course, the author spent some schooling-time in Europe, and holds a dear enough place for Austen and Shakespeare not to descend i
...more
Hannah
Jun 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Hannah by: Misfit
The western genre isn't one that I'm very familiar with, having read (in my impressionable early teens) some of my uncle's Tabor Evans Longarm series paperbacks. And let me just say for the record that the only thing the main character Longarm wasn't riding was a horse....Consequently, my only reading forays into western literature haven't been along the lines of Zane Gray's Riders of the Purple Sage so much as Evans' "Rider of the Purple-Nippled Wench" (my title, not his). As a result, I've ...more
Mike (the Paladin)
Mar 25, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: classics, western
I have been meaning to get to this book for years, literally. It's one of the novels I'm sure my dad read and he wasn't really a reader, at least not when I knew him.

I'm sure that some of you will like this book far better than I do. I think that it's an exceptionally well written novel. The prose is at times almost musical, "in it's way". There are two things that caused me to have a struggle with my interest now and then.

First this novel is predominantly a romance. It is indeed a western with
...more
Misfit
Aug 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
The Virginian, Oh What a Man! Wow, this was so good; I could not put it down. The Virginian is the most incredible, honest, honorable, handsome (sigh) hero to come along the pike in a long long time. And what a scamp, LOL at his plot to switch the babies (clothes and all) around, so that the parents took home the wrong kids, had to come back to the Judge's ranch, leaving Molly the new teacher alone for him to call on!

Lots of love, laughter and excitement as the Virginian falls for the new teach
...more
Deanne
I don't often read westerns, but this is a classic. The virginian is your typical cowboy in the white stetson, he's even nice to his horse.
There's the usual characters, the baddie, the innocent dupe and the tenderfoot who is also the narrator.
Plus it adds another state to the trip around the USA.
Tony
Oct 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
THE VIRGINIAN. (1902). Owen Wister. ****.
This was another book on my pile of “guilt” novels – one of those classics that I kept meaning to read but never got around to doing so. I finally did. It was well worth it in a sad0-masochistic way. What you have here is the grand-daddy of all cowboy novels. It was the inspiration for all succeeding novels, plays, movies and TV shows that came after that featured cowboys of the Old West. It was immensely popular at the time, going through fifteen printi
...more
Elizabeth K.
Apr 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012-new-reads
This surprised me with how awesome it was, and the whole reason I picked it up in the first place is because Nancy had to explain to me a weird Owen Wister reference in The Art of Fielding.

The first piece of news is that this does not take place in Virginia. (I NEVER SAW THE MOVIES!) It takes place in Wyoming. Considered by some to be the first Western (or so the internet tells me), this is a series of related stories about the Virginian of the title, who is apparently so impressively manly that
...more
Jim
Jul 16, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I only saw ebook editions of this, although I have an old hardback at home & downloaded the audio book from the library. I read this as a teen, maybe 40 years ago & liked it a lot better. I have a feeling I skimmed through a lot of the first part. Listening to it just got to be a drag.

It's told in a rather odd way by a guy that knows the Virginian, a third person limited, but then it slips into third person omniscient in other places. That didn't harm the story at all, though. It was als
...more
Jeff
Jan 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written in 1902, The Virginian is the original western novel from which we get many of the cowboy stereotypes and famous lines that would become staples, such as "Smile when you call me that." and "I'll give you till sundown to leave town."

I enjoyed it almost as much as Zane Grey's Riders of the Purple Sage, with which it has a lot in common, namely a hero, his love interest, a villain and cattle rustling.
Hannah
Feb 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's a shame to have a book on my favorites shelf and never get around to reviewing it. This book is credited with being the first true Western written... The tale of the Virginian and how he made good in the West. He was from Virginia, hence the nickname (in a land where men were often known more by their handle than their Christian name)—only once, near the end, do we hear what that name is. Then there is the matter of the Eastern lady schoolteacher who comes out with high ideals of bringing c ...more
Ernie
Jun 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
To think that the western movies, TV shows, space westerns, etc. were merely the shadows of this book, published in 1902. The impetus to read this book came from listening to Teddy Roosevelt's biography. The west made a big impression on TR and this book and Owen Wister were largely responsible for his, and our, romantic images. Lots has been written on this. Gun fights. High Noon. Dramatic and memorable music. Moral dilemmas did not exist within the code of the west. Good was clear, simple and ...more
Kimberly Barlow Cook
Apr 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A friend told me, before I read this book, that it was one of the most romantic books she had ever read. What did she mean by romantic, I wondered? Was it the Regency swash-buckling, bodice-ripping type, or something more meaningful? My friend was correct. This was, perhaps, the ultimate romantic novel. It skillfully weaves a story of the Adam and Eve type, where man yearns for what he lacks and finds it in the woman who completes him.

Having been married for 25 years myself, I have learned and
...more
Bill Rogers
Apr 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
A funny thing happened while I was reading The Virginian. The book was nothing but cliches, and yet it seemed fresh and alive. This surprised me. How was that possible?

Then it hit me. Wister invented the cliches. This is where the cliches of the Western came from. Every dusty Western town and literary cattle drive since has borrowed something from this book.

Yet Wister's Old West isn't the Old West of later books. The narrator of the story is an Easterner who goes west on various trips over a per
...more
James
Jan 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in the late nineteenth century American frontier
The Virginian was the inspiration for The Shopkeeper. The inspiration didn't come from the main character of the novel, but from the life of Owen Wister, the author of this classic. Originally published in 1902, Wister visited the Old West in the late nineteenth century and wrote from personal experience.

Although the Virginian can be a somewhat difficult read today, I liked it because Wister wrote from the personal experiences he recorded in his journal. I've never seen the journal, but I've re
...more
Donna
Jul 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, audio
Written in 1902, "The Virginian" is considered the first Western. It has also been voted among the best. It is a true Western with all of the cowboy stories and a fair share of muted violence, but it is also a textbook Romance with a school teacher from Vermont as the object of the Virginian's affections.

The book is quite well written and the description of the landscapes is magnificent. The pacing can seem quite slow at times, but all episodes lead up to the ending. I listened to the first 75%
...more
Ron
Apr 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: early-westerns
For anyone fascinated by how the myth of the Western hero came into being, this is the book to read. Published in 1902, it became hugely popular for decades and inspired movies (a version with Gary Cooper in 1929) and a long-running TV series (1962-1971). A modern reader could easily guess the storyline without reading a synopsis - the classic elements are all there: tall, dark, handsome cowboy hero; pretty schoolmarm from back East; the villain who must finally face justice at the end of a gun. ...more
Leslie
Apr 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This classic is considered by many to be the first 'Western'. It certainly has most if not all the tropes now considered to be standard for that genre! The hero, whose name we never learn, is a young man of about 24 when the story opens and at that time, he has already been on his own for 10 years and has traveled and worked in most of the West.

The descriptions of life in Wyoming in the period after the Civil War (~1870s) was well drawn and the romance between the cowboy and the schoolteacher f
...more
Hayden
My enjoyment of this one was rather uneven; there were parts where I couldn't put it down, and other parts where I just had no interest at all. It was a nice change from the types of novels I normally read, though.
Tristram
Beware of the Frog!

This is what, as I would recommend, should be put as a warning appendix to the title of Owen Wister's famous Western novel "The Virginian", which was first published in 1902 - because, as I felt, one third of the novel in some way or other centres on the preparation and consumption as well as the "harvest" of our amphibious friends.

"The Virginian" is commonly regarded as t h e literary forebear of the western, next to James Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales, and it pro
...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Jul 10, 2011 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Hardcore Lovers of the Western of Scholars of the Same
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Ultimate Reading List
This book, published in 1902, has been hailed as the first Western. The Virginian of the novel is the forefather of Hondo and Shane and every other strong but silent cowboy found in films. Here's a snippet:

The Virginian's pistol came out, and his hand lay on the table, holding it unaimed. And with a voice as gentle as ever, the voice that sounded almost like a caress, but drawling a very little more than usual, so that there was almost a space between each word, he issued his orders to the man T
...more
Bridget
Jan 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Bridget by: Katie
Shelves: 2012
How have I never read this book before? It's a little bit The Count of Monte Cristo, a little bit A Pair of Blue Eyes, and a little bit Little House on the Prairie, with a dash of High Noon and (I'm going to say it) Twilight thrown in. It's not a perfect book - the pacing is uneven sometimes and while I liked the way the narrator elbowed himself into the story every few chapters, it wasn't always clear how he knew some things but not others. Is there such a thing as a semiscient narrator?

But it'
...more
Rodney
Jan 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Rodney by: My Dad
This book may turn some off because its style of writing is over 100 years old. I enjoyed it thoroughly, however, and feel that it is an American classic. As many have stated, it is the consummate western, yet owes much to books that have come before it. It has a strong romantic strain reminiscent of an Austin novel, but can also be tough and gritty. The book is also quite philosophical and is a great source for quotes.

Someone who is looking for a L'Amour western should steer clear of "The Virgi
...more
Charles
Dec 05, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: westerns
I definitely enjoyed it. It is certainly slow moving by modern standards and with many asides that don't pertain to the main thrust of the story, but most of those were interesting reading and often quite funny. Wister had a witty way of writing.

You can defnitely see how the conventions of the western novel were developed in this one, and The Virginian is a prototypical western hero. Overall, I enjoyed it quite a lot.
Cherie
Sep 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-audio
I listened to this as an audio book from my library. It was wonderfully written. The stories had me laughing out loud or holding my breath waiting to see what was going to happen next or sobbing. The story of the baby swap was my favorite.

I grew up watching the old TV show from the 1960s with James Drury and Lee J. Cobb. I could still see all of their faces as I listened to Gene Engene read the book to me. Perfect!
Maciek
Apr 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: western
The titular Virginian is propably the most badass character ever created in fiction. The country teacher can't help falling in love with him, and the author obviously couldn't help it too - the manner in which he describes the Virginian and his actions are hilarious and awesome at the same time.
Benjamin Thomas
May 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic, western
Like many other reviewers here, I’ve long wanted read this novel and now I’ve finally gone and done it. As a fan of the traditional western genre, I just couldn’t feel complete without reading the forefather of them all…The Virginian, first published in 1902.

The story is a fairly straight-forward one and contains many of the elements which we have come to associate with the traditional western story. The tall, handsome stranger who comes to work on a cattle ranch in Wyoming (remaining unnamed th
...more
Bailey Marissa
I had watched some of the TV series before I read the book and knew that there would be differences, but wow I wasn't prepared...

Judge Garth: Know as Judge Henry in the book. He's married (yeeeep) and is just kinda...there. He has no real personality.

Mrs. Garth: Very awesome and she's great. I'm bitter she wasn't in the book more.

Trampas: In the TV show, he's the Virginian's right hand man; in the book, Trampas is hella evil. So very evil.

Molly: The Virginian's love interest in the book. I have
...more
Katy
Jul 16, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
July 2017 this was the book for my F2F book group. I only read about halfway and then we had our meeting. This book is okay, but now that the discussion is over, there are many other books that are calling me.
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Owen Wister was born on July 14, 1860, in Germantown, a neighborhood within the City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His father, Owen Jones Wister, was a wealthy physician, one of a long line of Wisters raised at the storied Belfield estate in Germantown. His mother, Sarah Butler Wister, was the daughter of actress Fanny Kemble.
Education
He briefly attended schools in Switzerland and Britain, and la
...more
More about Owen Wister

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“Forgive my asking you to use your mind. It is a thing which no novelist should expect of his reader...” 764 likes
“When a man ain't got no ideas of his own, he'd ought to be kind o' careful who he borrows 'em from.” 34 likes
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