I don’t want to write a long review of this one. I am counting it for my novella in the Back to the Classics challenge. It is on the long side for a novella: 230 pages. I have a second-hand paperback that I picked up at a thrift store about four years ago. If it hadn’t caught my eye, I doubt I would have heard of it. It languished on my shelf for quite awhile as it was. I was afraid of it. Much of my life, I’ve had a fear of animals.
Jean Stafford was a Catholic woman and this book was first published in 1947. So, very much calculated to interest me when I brought the book home and looked more closely. The pages of my copy are aged and mellowed to a honey.
The main characters of the book, Ralph and Molly Fawcett, brother and sister, also begin with a fear of animals. That they are afraid of cows, but would never admit it, is one of the first things we learn about them. Molly never outgrows a deep, unreasoning fear of snakes. They are afraid of horses but they face that and become skilled riders, acting on a desire deeper than fear. Then there is the mountain lion, shuddered at by Molly, loved and hunted by Ralph.
This was the best new book I have read all year. At one point, there is an extended reflection by one of the characters on the color gold. This book was gold, all the way through. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to stop and copy a sentence, a paragraph, but was too eager for the next one.
I’ve recently read Out Stealing Horses and Peace Like A River. Books treating the spell of the American West, books with horses, guns, sibling relationships, and fathers. All those thematic currents carried into The Mountain Lion. They were all good books. But this was the best of the three.
You will love, without pitying, the hating and hated Molly. I didn’t even pity Ralph, even at end, but I hope you love him too. The book is charged with the increasingly anguished and complicated love between the two of them. Charged. It is tensely luminous, like a mountain lion.